Political Alchemy

When Michelle Obama said she was proud of the US for the first time in her adult life, I understood what she meant. Of course, she probably knew instantly that she was in trouble, that you just can’t say something like that in America without the non-thinking right coming after you with manufactured outrage. “Not proud of America!? Outrageous!”

The implication of their outrage is, and I guess this is reality for some, that you should always be proud of the US, no matter what we’re doing or what we’ve done. That there are no conditions under which you may be less than proud.

It doesn’t mean I’m not very proud to be American, but the truth is we as a nation have done plenty to be ashamed of, especially since the Bush administration took office, and I like the fact that Michelle Obama sees it that way too. If her husband feels the same way (and may he never say so out loud!), it’s an indication that, should he be elected, there’s hope for correction of the problem. If one has no shame over what we do wrong, then we’ll never bother to correct our wrongs. I know it’s much simpler to just be proud and not bother fixing or correcting or changing anything, but that’s not a formula for improvement.

So her comment was an off-the-cuff remark, which has been taken out of context, and commented upon, and shrieked about from the right. Political alchemy; trying to synthesize outrage from a benign, throw-away remark.

The irony is that the same type of trouble befell Bill O’Reilly as he himself was participating, albeit mildly, in that unwarranted, ridiculous attack on Michelle Obama. I’m no apologist for O’Reilly, who is a giant turd, but he was dumb enough to accidentally drop the word “lynching” into his comments on the story. Even the linguistically dense George Bush knows you can’t do that. It’s obvious to me that it was just as thoughtless as Michelle Obama’s comment, and not intended to be as evil or provocative as the other side characterized. He clearly didn’t realize what he was saying. But he deserves the flack for participating in the very same kind of shabby, groundless attack, for playing the alchemist against a target like Michelle Obama.

O’Reilly is part of the problem. Going after a candidate’s wife is low. At least this once he was repaid in kind.


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