*By now I’m sure you’ve heard about it: First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, the wife of Vice-president Joe Biden, served as honorary grand marshals at NASCAR’s Ford 400 race in Miami on Sunday, November 20. Along with the First Lady and Mrs. Biden was Army Sgt. Andrew Barry, a veteran of the Afghan and Iraqi wars who now volunteers at an Orlando, Fla., veterans center, and his family.
Sgt. Barry got cheers, but when Michelle Obama and Mrs. Biden were introduced, the crowd began to boo and jeer. The message was clear: You’re not welcome here.
Yep, that’s right: the people for whom “Love this country or leave it” is a mantra; the people who say “Support our troops,” no matter who we are bombing or why, no matter how many American sons and daughters return in body bags; the people who allow no sway or gray area when it comes to how THEY believe Americans should feel about all things officially “AMURican” — these people booed the First Lady and the wife of the vice-president of the United States.
People are angry. I get that. For a great many of us, one way or another, times are tough. People are out of work. They are losing their homes (the perennially homeless in this rich and bountiful country are probably saying, “Welcome to OUR world”). A good portion of Americans can’t afford basic health care. I can dig it.
I also understand giving your frustrations a voice. In America, we enjoy freedom of speech. It’s a wonderful thing. However, everything has its time and place.
Moreover, there’s this concept called respect. Here’s how it works: you don’t have to agree with a person’s views. You may not care for their hairdo or style of dress. You don’t have to like them at all.
But unless they’ve killed your dog, kidnapped a member of your family or committed something equally heinous, you give them something known as due regard. You apply basic courtesy. AKA civility. Those booing Michelle Obama at the NASCAR event either aren’t familiar with this societal decree or simply don’t give a damn.
Which is ironic, considering that in recent years, NASCAR has sought to market the popular sport of stock car racing away from the unremitting stereotype that suggests its fan base largely consists of the narrow-minded, the immature and the uneducated, who sit out in the bleachers guzzling beer and watching cars race around a track as they await the spectacle of a crash. NASCAR says it extends its arms to all audiences. Apparently not all NASCAR fans feel the same. No surprise there.
But when was the last time you heard of a U.S. First Lady being booed? Her husband yes, but his wife?
That’s how venomous a certain sector of the American public feels about President and Michelle Obama’s … height. Yeah, that must be it. Or the fact that Mrs. Obama slips out of the White House every now and then to shop at Target and Petco, like the rest of us. They hate it when “uppity” Negroes pretend to be normal. Or Barack’s walk — that proud, assured gait has gotta be killing them.
Now that they’ve let that Birthers nonsense rest, they contend it’s solely the POLICIES of the Obama administration that has their collective dander up. Don’t forget his “arrogance.” They’ll blame their disdain on anything but the real thing.
But just once, I wish one of them would step forward and admit the truth: mostly they hate the Obamas because they are black. Just say it, already.
Although, by all accounts, intelligence, rudimentary logic and reality can also scare the hell out of these people.
Steven Ivory, journalist and author of the essay collection Fool In Love (Simon & Schuster), has covered popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio and TV for more than 30 years. Respond to him via [email protected].