Obama’s Osama Killing Puts America’s Racial Narratives on Display
May 12, 2011 11 Comments
Singer Sheryl Crow, she reminds us, has met four presidents — and President Obama is “one of the most conscious people” she’s “ever met” — comparable to Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King (about whom she “knows a lot”). “He [President Obama] walks the walk.” This political and spiritual canonization, oddly, because Obama killed Osama.
This is fascinating — but first, here are her thoughts in full — speaking on the “Gayle King Show” on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network — when asked about her reaction to the death of Osama bin Laden, because they are illuminating in several directions.
“It’s fascinating times that we’re living in. I mean, the first thing I thought was, I think, I felt the same way everyone else did, mixed emotions about the fact that we killed someone. And I think in our spirits, we know that killing is not right. In this particular instance, we have such an association with this person for having dealt us such a heinous blow. So, you know, mixed emotions of finally justice has been served and, secondly, we’ve just killed somebody, so there’s not a celebratory mood that goes along with that, I don’t think.
“But really for me, and listening to the speech, watching Obama speak about it [last Sunday night], it’s just fascinating that we have a black man, who has Muslim ties with his father, even though he’s a Christian, it’s amazing how far our country has come, that that’s the man who took down Osama bin Laden.
“It makes you feel very patriotic, I mean, I’ve become very philosophical about it, and I do think that, um, if it were any other president, I might feel different about it. But, he’s one of the most conscious people I’ve ever met, and I’ve met four presidents now. And I know a lot about Robert Kennedy and the words that he spoke and a lot about Martin Luther King and the words that he spoke, and they always spoke in terms of consciousness and enlightenment. And he walks the walk.”
I wouldn’t ordinarily pick a pop singer as the vehicle for exploring America’s racial narratives (or any other matter of consequence — except for Rebecca Black, who rocks). But in this case, Sheryl speaks so sincerely and taps a vein that I believe representative, that it makes sense to spin off Sheryl.
First, her initial premise is sound. High-five, Osama is dead, okay maybe not the high-five. A person is dead, shot in the head by American forces. I get that checked reaction, and respect it. I also get and fully understand why the momentous event was celebratory in several circles — but our better natures can both understand and regret what is necessary in warfare.
Second, “a black man … with Muslim ties” “took down Osama bin Laden”? Really? We can talk that way now? About what “a black man .. with Muslim ties” does (as long as it’s praising what a black man with Muslim ties does)? On the one hand, a substantial percentage of Americans on the left are convinced that another substantial percentage of Americans on the right are sunk in the darkest, most bilious racism, and blindly opposed to Barack Obama because he is black — but it’s “amazing how far our country has come” because a black man with Muslim ties killed Osama bin Laden?
There’s a touch of confusion here. I won’t call it a double-standard (yet), but shouldn’t it be vaguely troubling that, according to a common narrative on the left, Americans must be racist for opposing President Obama — even without ever mentioning his race — but we can mention, indeed applaud, his race, and his Muslim ties, if we’re praising him?
Third, the sincerity kicker from Sheryl is this: she feels “patriotic” because President Obama killed someone, but doubts she would feel the same way had it been any other president. (And she’s known four.) That’s one of the most honest statements from the left I’ve heard in a long time. That’s why I think it makes sense to take a more careful look at what Sheryl said.
There is a vitriol in leftist rhetoric, a very nearly religious condemnation of the gravest evil and venality, when a conservative does or espouses precisely the same thing that a “black man with Muslim ties” does and espouses. For prosecuting the war in Afghanistan (which President Obama continues to prosecute), for prosecuting the war in Iraq (which President Obama continues to prosecute), for keeping open the Guantanamo prison (which President Obama continues to hold open), for “enhanced interrogation techniques” (which Obama’s CIA Director, Leon Panetta, admitted contributed to intelligence that led directly to Osama bin Laden’s killing) — for all of these things the left reviled President Bush as Hitler incarnate.
Indeed, but for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Guantanamo prison — but for the Bush presidency’s concerted war on terrorism — the locating and killing of Osama bin Laden would not have been possible.
Am I nursing a grievance that President Bush does not get more credit for killing Osama bin Laden? Good heavens no. Quite the contrary. God bless America, President Barack Obama, the Navy SEALS, and the operation that brought straightforward justice to a mass murderer — who wanted to murder more.
But when the policies are so eerily similar, how does one go from Hitler Bush — to Saint Obama with “consciousness and enlightenment” who “walks the walk”? How does the left — generally troubled by killing — go from demonizing and Hitlerizing a decent man who sought to kill Osama bin Laden to beatifying another decent man who sought to kill — and did kill — Osama bin Laden?
Honestly, now I’m open-ended. Is this the programmatic Loyalty we were warned about in the Fifties? Or is it because President Obama is a “black man with Muslim ties,” and not incidentally, a liberal?
If the latter, then let’s open our eyes about our racial narrative. The vast majority of Americans have no problem with the fact that President Obama is black. Similarly, evidently, the rabid conservative voters in the straw poll about who won the first Republican presidential debate have no problem with the fact that Herman Cain is black.
The left gets to talk freely about “a black man,” even to say the simple fact that the president is black is a reason for a kind of “patriotism” that was virulent protest five years ago — and that’s fine. I applaud. The right can never mention “a black man,” and that’s fine. America can freely talk about the great things “a black man” does. Meanwhile, conservatives talk about some of the terrible things a liberal president has done. We do not say, and would never imagine saying, President Obama is doing some terrible liberal things and by the way he is a “black man with Muslim ties.” We just really dislike some of the liberal policies.
I happily concede the more luxurious space in the public square to the left — the ability to talk freely about “a black man with Muslim ties” (!) — if the left will stop calling conservatives racists.