President Obama took some flack from the usual sources (Fox News, etc.) about
appearing on "The View," the afternoon female TV chat fest, a show he visited
once when he was a candidate. Obama has lost some of his rhetorical fire since being forced to give so
many speeches lately – most informal, in many forums, where he recycles
the same sort of remarks. So many, in fact, his prodigious memory fails him, as
it did on "The View," when he denied knowing who Snooki was, though he did make
a joke about her in an after dinner talk at one of the Washington press corps
Even Obama nods.
Well, on "The View" the Shirley Sherrod incident came up and Obama went on
about race, calling the country a "mongrel" nation, a word he is apparently
fond of, since he also used it when he campaigned for the presidency. The
same day on NPR, "Here and Now"
did a segment on the same question, bringing in two experts: one, Kip Fulbeck,
a guy who had written a book on his mixed-race background, and the other,
Obama's half-sister, Dr. Maya Soetoro-Ng.
Nowhere in either discussion was the larger issue discussed: not mixed race,
but mixed class. That's the more dramatic phenomenon in the country.
Most Americans are now mixed race, depending on what you consider
"race." Italians and Irish were considered races decades ago.
It's hard, given all the family tree searching that goes on today, not to
realize we are, as Obama said, a mongrel nation.
But it is the mixed class issue that does more to the culture, is more dynamic.
Obama had two college-educated parents, two with advanced degrees.
That was the chief element, even though, since he was deserted by his
father, he fell into a class gray area, living with his grandparents while his
mother continued her travels and research. A lot of mixed-class kids get
at least one side of the family that is in a different class than the other.
It is that fact that often moves them upward in the world.
But it is odd how little class is discussed openly, though the complaint about
the absence of talk about race is often mentioned, however wrong the assertion
is. Race is talked about all the time.
Class is the taboo subject, here. Because that is where the great
disparities reside. Especially in today's economy.
Two short notices: one, this is Tuesday and I'll be posting on Tuesdays more
often than not in the weeks to come. The second is the
"disturbing" Time cover
this week, of the girl with half her nose cut off. (The wound is so
surgical looking, one wonders if she is in mid-process to getting prosthesis.)
The cover line is "What Happens If We Leave Afghanistan."
It is a professional portrait, meant to mimic the famous photo of an
Afghan girl taken many years ago, which, coincidentally, was featured in
today's South Bend Tribune.
Doubtless, some have already pointed this out, but the Time photo and cover line overlook the fact that the young
women's nose was cut off while we were in Afghanistan, so one wonders whether
our presence is saving anyone from the brutalities of the culture, or if it
would in the future. As Hemingway once wrote, Isn't it pretty to think
The column has been changed to reflect the following corrrection: Steve McCurry's 1984 "iconic" photo of an Afghan girl appeared yesterday (8/3/10) in the South Bend Tribune, not The New York Times. Sorry South Bend Tribune.