…may not always be such a good thing.
Let’s start with Bill Clinton and his saxophone. George W. Bush trying to dance. Barack Obama lofting his falsetto and wowing his listeners.
We also have the by-now eternal question: with whom would you rather have a beer?
Not to mention: briefs or boxers?
Recently, on Funny or Die’s website, we caught something that shocked us. We mean it. Really and truly shocked us. An actor/comedian named Gus Galifianakis was”interviewing” President Obama. One of his questions was: “What is it like to be the last black president?”
O.K., that’s a funny line. And all of us who are tied to the Internet and email receive far worse shots about the president from our well-meaning but generally politically opposite friends. Some truly are amusing. Others are horrifying. The number of people who forward racist political theory seems to grow daily. Everything comes across our wires: quips about Kenya and Hawaii, snide shots at Mrs. Obama’s dietary plans, drawings of what a “real” government shutdown should look like.
We know this makes us sound as old as we are, but it didn’t use to be this way. With Obama’s election – something we stayed up to watch as we considered it a milestone in the history of our country – ugliness erupted. We can mark the date: Obama’s first State of the Union speech and the legislator who did not shrink while shouting “You lie!”at the president.
As a child, we were taught the following: when the President calls, you answer the phone When the President asks, you agree to act. When the President suggests we have a duty to perform, we do it. Not because we agree with what is asked or even why it has been asked of us, but because this is the President of the United States talking.
We hear,daily, people smugly reporting that they support the Presidency, just not this president. For millions, this comes close to saying they support our troops, just not the war they’re fighting.
These positions are nearly fair-safe. How can one be criticized as unpatriotic when one has just said the presidency is something venerable and valuable? How can our lack of enthusiasm over invasions, whether pre-emptive or necessary, depend on the presence of a neighbor’s son or daughter on the battlefield and still be called unpatriotic?
Attach a sticker or a ribbon to the rear window of your car and you’re home free.
What follows from our growing disrespect of a man or woman in high office is the day after the night. If we don’t think he or she is acting on behalf of the nation, how can others?
Asking a couple of more questions seems in order. How would Hillary Clinton feel about being asked how she views herself as the last woman president? How would Marco Rubio feel about being asked how he sees himself as the last Hispanic to be president?
Americans are willing to take a chance, once. Maybe twice. But not again and again. And while we are often told our memories seem to last only as long as it takes to tie one’s shoes, we have them.
Why can’t we remember that the president is the President? Selected by our neighbors if not by ourselves, by others for good reason or ill. We are all Americans, or want to be. Isn’t part of our heritage the sense that one man or one woman, for four short years (or even eight), is leading us in what he or she believes is the best possible fashion, the most sensible, the safest? That he or she is worthy of respect and admiration as he or she speaks to the world, travels the world, tries to deal with threats from the rest of the world?
In our rush to prove that a president puts on his pants just the way the rest of us do, one leg at a time, are we so determined to erase the profound specialness he or she has shown and to make him or her just like the rest of us – greedy, obese, short-tempered, spoiled, angry, selfish – when we should be grateful other people still have big dreams and try to act on them? Otherwise, it seems to us, self-deportation should be something for 300 million people to begin considering.