Friday, December 13, 2013

Making fun of Catholics and doing a selfie at a great man's memorial service: Didn't President Obama's mother raise him better?

Earlier this week, various news outlets circulated a photo of our President using a smart phone at Nelson Mandela's memorial service to take a selfie of himself, England's Prime Minister David Cameron and the prime minister of Denmark. A photographer caught our president looking exactly like a snickering school boy who had just dunked a fellow student's braids in an ink well.


Didn't Barack's mother raise him better?
Photo credit: Roberto Schmidt AFP/Getty Images

How embarrassing! And this comes on the heals of his insult to Catholics when he made the sign of the cross to pardon a turkey during the Thanksgiving season. And of course the President was caught lying repeatedly about the Affordable Care Act.

As we say in the South when someone commits a serious breach of etiquette--didn't his mother raise him better? And what is his excuse for such boorish behavior? He can't say he didn't receive a decent education. After all, he was educated at Columbia University and Harvard Law School.

Of course, one doesn't need an elite college education to behave with grace and dignity. I have dozens of relatives in South Louisiana, none of whom went to an ivy league college. Yet not a single one of my relatives would behave disrespectfully at a funeral or memorial service. Not a single one would ridicule another person's religion. And--as far as I know--not a single of one of my friends or relatives is a liar.

Since the founding of this nation, Americans have cherished a vision of an ideal American citizen as a person who behaves with grace, dignity, and courage; a person who respects the values and religious beliefs of others; a person who can solve problems in ways that makes the world a better place. And Americans have always believed that the ideal citizen need not have a fancy education.

We see this ideal reflected again and again in American literature. Owen Wister, a Harvard man, created a fictional American ideal in his novel The Virginian. This man, though not educated, conveys immense dignity, tolerance, and respect for others. "When you call me that, smile," the Virginian says famously.

And John Steinbeck's great novel, The Grapes of Wrath, tells the story of an impoverished, uneducated family forced from their home in Oklahoma to become refugees on the road to California. Ma Joad and Tom Joad are portrayed as people of great fortitude, courage, and generosity.

And of course, James Fenimore Cooper's Natty Bumppo, the unlettered frontiersman in The Last of the Mohicans, was shown by Cooper to be more well-bred that the well-born English army officers with whom he was thrown together.

For all his fine education, I doubt whether Barack Obama has read much American literature. I would be astonished if he is familiar with The Last of the Mohicans, The Virginian, The Grapes of Wrath or any of the books that make up the canon of American literature.

I think Barack Obama would serve himself well by studying the American ideal of a great citizen as it is portrayed in our literature--perhaps he could steal some time by playing less golf. Certainly, he does not appear to have been well schooled at Harvard or Columbia. Otherwise he would not make fun of Catholics or act like a child at a great man's memorial service.

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