If my post about “the gay community” demonstrated anything, it was my distrust and even hatred of attempts at being politically correct. The big problem with any sort of political correctness is that it comes across as patronizing, as though a certain segment of society needs protection from “the white man”. Read the rest of this entry »
On Monday, I wrote about my theory on Canadian nationalism: how I perceived we had changed from a whiny bunch of America haters to a bunch of patriotic, nationalistic individuals who just loved their country – like Americans, I guess. I mean, that was the response a lot of my post-Olympic discussions were about; how the outcry of pride struck people as being so American, as if that meant anything. It was my theory — and the theory of dozens of Canadian journalists and politicians, too — that something had happened (and what it was wasn’t exactly obvious). With a bit of time to think about it, I think I’m only partly right… well, maybe completely right. But like I said at the end of my last post (in what those in the know call a cliff-hanger or hook), I kind of wish I was completely wrong.
It’d be easy to write a thousand words about how the Vancouver Stanley Cup Riot of 2011 was completely stupid: how millions of dollars in damage was caused in several hours, how regular people turned into idiots under the mob mentality, how the Vancouver Police Department was lil-prepared, in no small part due to the city administration, and how, well, absolutely preventable the whole thing was. Sure, I could write that, but I’ll save us all some time: it was absolutely stupid.
So, what happened? How did we go from a mature bunch of friendly Canadians who could host the world without an incident to a bunch of ignorant Canadians intent on setting their own city in flames? While a large part of it has to do with police presence (ie, the city was crawling with cops during the 2010 Olympics; during the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, not so much), I think part of it is well, that nationalism Canada once seemed to yearn for. Maybe. It’s hard to say that when one contrasts this riot with the one in 1994; while there seemed to be a lot more focus on Canada this riot (more anthems and flags, whoo!), what you have at the end of the day is, well, another riot.
But it was my hope that our experience, our growing up since last riot, would have prevented this. But I think it exacerbated it.
I think Canada still has huge penis-envy for the USA. Sure, we spend all our time talking about how much better we are than the USA, but at the end of the day, I think there is some serious jealousy. Canada gets shat on all the time, especially in Hollywood. And while our credit overseas might extend a bit further, let’s be honest with ourselves: we (Canadians) watch more American TV and movies than we do Canadian or international ones. So when South Park declares war on Canada or Robin’s Canadian heritage is made the butt of every joke on How I Met Your Mother or when every other episode of The Simpsons has a Canada joke, it hurts a little.
I’ve been to a lot of hockey games (because I’m Canadian?), and this is something I’ve only noticed Canadian fans do: they boo the American National Anthem. The last game I went to, in fact, one fan shouted “This song sucks!” during the US anthem and a bunch of folks laughed; another person just straight up booed the thing. And while it wasn’t sung particularly well, that’s not a good reason to boo it (on a side note, and hockey fans can relate, it really bugs me when people shout out “free!” in response to the lyric “glorious and free!” in the Canadian anthem; it’s stupid and, well, disrespectful). Part of this, I think, is due to Canada’s love for the anti-American nationalism movie Bowling for Columbine; I think that movie has left an indelible mark in the Canadian psyche on how we view America. Especially, since (like I mentioned), so much of that movie is spent saying how much better Canada is than the US. Regardless, booing the national anthem of any country has to be one of the most disrespectful things you can do. I mean, ignoring the fact that the US anthem is awesome (bombs bursting in the air? ramparts? sounds like a Michael Bay movie in the making, if you ask me), it’s just plain tacky: which is why you have this crazy response from American fans when the Canadian anthem is played:
I don’t want to read too much into it or to argue that all Americans are like this, or that all Canadians are like this (because I’ve never booed an anthem myself, anyway). But I think it’s terribly tacky and terribly, well, unCanadian to boo an anthem.
And I suppose that’s my next point. For a country of allegedly polite, warm, and friendly people, Canadians are fucking rude. And I think while this anti-anthem bull had been going on before the Olympics and thus before my timeline suggests, I think its gotten worse. A big thing that a lot of people noticed during the Olympics was how often the anthem was sung; and since the Olympics, I think it gets sung (especially at Canucks games) with more vigor. But there are so many tales of drunk Canadians heading south of the border to American events to boo the US anthem and sing their own, off-key, slurred, and with incorrect lyrics, that it has gotten pretty absurd.
Here’s where I’d like to end it, I guess: I’m not positive Canada has truly grown or changed at all in the last ten years, and if we have it must be for the worse. Following the Vancouver 2011 riot, a lot of people blamed the thing on a “small group” of anarchists, but one just has to watch the footage to see how many fucking people were involved. Sure, a bunch of folks, the very next day, went to help clean up. But I tire of the rhetoric that it was these people — and not the rioters (though the groups are not mutually exclusive) — that were the “true” fans, as though (especially in Vancouver), there is such a thing as a “true” fan, as though a particular group or person can “own” fandom. No. When sports riots happen elsewhere, it never happens when the final game is lost by the home team in the home city. Of all the instances in North American sports riots, it has only happened twice, both times in Vancouver, British Columbia.
So, this article and the last (over 2000 words), and the paper on which the first article is based, have all reached this conclusion: things really haven’t changed. Me? I still think Canada is the best place on earth and I’m more proud to be a Canadian than I was a few years ago. But I find myself wanting to spend less and less time around other Canadians.
Last June this open letter popped up on the Canucks forums, and I think the OP — an American — has some insightful things to say about Canucks fans. Check it:
For most of my life I’ve often wondered why Canadians hate America and her people so much. Sure, I’ve been told over and over and over again that we’re ignorant hicks who treat Canadians rude when they come to Canada to visit her cities or fish in her lakes. The same can be said for French-Canadians in the east who visits cities like Boston quite frequently, due to the proximity. I used to live in Boston (went to school there), and by far the most rude people I’ve ever met were French-Canadians! They would literally tell us to our faces how dumb and ignorant we Americans were. They wouldn’t even try and hide their resentment. Folks in Western Canada are far more subtle about their resentment, but when given the opportunity, will freely share with us all of our short-comings, weaknesses, fallibilities, etc. About ten years ago I sad down at a restaurant in Vancouver and the waiter was very friendly and cordial. He asked us where we were from and my heart sank, because I knew that as soon as I said the USA, his attitude towards us would change, and sure enough, it did.
At first I thought Canadian hatred towards Americans must be jealousy, but as time went on, I learned that it wasn’t jealousy at all – it was the opposite. From my perspective, and from the perspective of many of my friends and even family members who now live in British Columbia, its seems most likely to be a bad case of superiority complex!
I do think it’s a combination of jealousy and superiority complex. We wish we could be an economic/militaristic/cultural superpower, and still be this bastion of civil rights we perceive ourselves to be. We think we’re better than the US overall, but wish we could combine what the US is great at with what we’re great at, and we’ve subscribed to the philosophy that if we bring America down to raise ourselves up, it’s fair game (like the old joke: you never have to outrun the bear when you’re running away, you just have to run faster than your friend).
Back in late 2010, I proposed that with the conclusion of the 2010 Winter Olympics, we were about to see a new “Canadian identity”. The issue of Canadian identity is one that has plagued journalists and writers for years. Some proposed that our identity was as a multicultural country; others proposed that our identity was simply not being American. Still others proposed that our identity was not having an identity. I figured to some extent that these things were true, and that with the Olympics we might have forged a Canadian identity.
I based this beginning on Molson’s “Joe Canadian” commercials, first released back in 2000.
The commercial begins with an “average” Canadian taking the stage. He politely says “hey” into the microphone and begins. He starts by explaining things he doesn’t do. He’s “not a lumberjack or a fur-trader” and he doesn’t “live in an igloo or eat blubber or own a dogsled.” So far so good.
He then begins explaining the difference between himself and (presumably) Joe American: Joe Canadian has “a Prime Minister, not a President”. He speaks “English and French, not American”, and he pronounces it “about, not a boot” (this, admittedly, isn’t differentiation so much as it is dispelling myths as above), and he can “proudly sew [his] nation’s flag on [his] backpack”, unlike, presumably an American (this ties in with the presumably true myth that Americans sew flags onto their backpacks; see this for a great explanation and more Canadian “I’m not American” ranting). Joe believes in “peace-keeping, not policing, diversity, not assimilation” (unlike Americans), and that “the beaver is a truly proud and noble animal” (a joke), and that “it is pronounced ‘zed’, not ‘zee'” (though “zed-zed Top” would sound stupid). Joe goes on to claim that Canada is the world’s second largest landmass (true), the first nation in hockey (again, true, but an all-too obvious jab at America), and the best part of North America — another jab at the USA.
Growing up in Canada, this is largely what we were taught and in fact this what we were taught about America: that they’re a bunch of crude brutes who sew maple leaves on their backpacks, say “huh” instead of “eh”, believe in a “cultural melting pot” instead of a “cultural mosaic” (which is a claim Canada and Canadians hold on to dearly), and that we keep the peace while the US fights wars. I would go as far as to say that Canadians are taught from an early age to hate America and hate Americans. We’re taught that we’re better because of our “free” healthcare, our welfare system, our governance, our oft-touted peacekeeping force (though that image has declined in a number of years, partially due to “President” Stephen Harper), and our liberal social laws, which includes a lack of police and jails. While the argument can easily be made that there isn’t much difference between Americans and Canadians, that’s a discussion for another time. The point is that the identity Canada perceived for itself was its unAmericanness. I think that part of what solidified this view, at least for my generation, was the film Bowling for Columbine. In case you don’t remember, it is a rant by Michael Moore that essentially fellates Canada. It’s hard not to think you’re the best thing on the planet and America is the worst when an Academy Award winning documentary is telling you so.
Tim Hortons, another oft-celebrated “Canadian” company, has too released a number of commercials claiming to define what it is to be Canadian. In late ’09, they released “In his own words”, a message from Sidney Crosby telling us what it is to be Canadian:
“Hockey is our game. But really, it’s much more than just a game. It’s a passion that brings us closer together on frozen ponds, at the community rink, and in our living rooms. It’s the feeling you got the first time you stepped on the ice, the feeling you had when you scored your first goal. Hockey is in our driveways, it’s in our dreams, in every post-game celebration. It’s in the streets every time your friend yells ‘car’, in every rink across the country. It’s in our hearts. Hockey is that thought inside your head saying ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing, getting up everyday…’ ‘and playing, doing something that you love to do?’”
Hockey, for Sid the Kid, is the Canadian identity. And, to some extent, I think it is the identity I myself happen to accept as being “my” identity the most. Hockey, even though it is played world wide, is just that Canadian sport. Maybe he’s right, maybe he’s wrong, but this conflicts with a commercial released, again by Tim Hortons, in February of 2010.
Called “A Coffee All Our Own”, it begins with a black man speaking into a foreign (not in English or in French, of course). He tells whoever it is that he’ll see them tomorrow. He shows up to the airport, and orders a pair of Tim Hortons’s coffees. He greets his family with tears and hands his wife the coffee, saying “welcome to Canada”. She notices the bundles he has and asks him “what is all this?” His enigmatic response is “you’ll see”. They bundle up and head into the snow outside — “welcome home”, he says, ending the commercial. Two things are especially notable here:
1) the man is meant to defy our expectations of what a Canadian is.
Judging from his accent and the fact his family lives overseas, he is clearly a recent immigrant. But the implied notion is that he is just as Canadian as someone who is born here.
2) the coffee.
He hands his wife the coffee before handing her the clothes. He says “welcome to Canada” as he does so. We can take this to mean that having Tim Hortons coffee is tantamount to being Canadian (anecdote: the very first thing I bought after returning to Canada from two months overseas was a Tim Hortons coffee). In the “welcome to Canada” greeting ritual, having a Tim’s coffee is pretty much essential.
So from this video, we can ascertain at least two different things: anyone can be a Canadian, and Tim Hortons coffee, just like hockey, is part — maybe the very core — of being Canadian.
These commercials were all followed by the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.
Hockey has always been a very divisive issue in America and in Canada. I’m not precisely sure how it is in the US, but when the Stanley Cup comes down to an American team and a Canadian team, it instantly becomes a note of national pride. Most Vancouver Canucks fans, I think, would agree that Calgary is a shithole. But if it came down to a match between Calgary and some other American team, a lot of fans in Vancouver would back Calgary. When it came down to the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins last year (even before, actually), Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a photo-stop down in Richmond, British Columbia, to buy a Canucks jersey for his son. He proudly proclaimed that, with the Montreal Canadiens out of the way, “as a Canadian, I’m now all the way behind the Canucks” (this was on May 2, 2011, the same day his government won a majority in the federal election, don’t-ya-know).
Most of the time, the Canada vs. US match just seems to be a really bad case of envy: America is(/was?) seen as an economic and militaristic superpower. Canada is always the mouse sleeping beside the elephant; we’re America’s hat and America’s younger brother. Every chance that a Canadian has to one-up an American is one they take, really.
So of course, the absolute highlight of the 2010 Olympic Games was the gold medal match between Canada and the US. Nearly half of the population of Canada watched the entire Gold Medal match, while more than 80% of the population watched at least some part of the match. It was huge. It was the most watched broadcast in Canadian history and the most watched hockey broadcast in the US since 1980 (the match that year being the Miracle on Ice when America took out its Cold War frustrations by beating the Russians in hockey — in the same way that political, economic, and military envy is fought by Canadians on the ice, so to were they fought by the Americans in 1980; anyone who tells you that the Miracle on Ice or that the 2010 Gold Medal game was “just another hockey game” is a moron). And, significantly, Canada won.
If you weren’t there, this video should give you an indication of how insane Canada went. There were spontaneous celebrations across the country. I was in the downtown core at a restaurant watching the game when it happened. When it did, everyone in the room jumped up. The room itself was a cultural mosaic but everyone in the room jumped, cheered, hugged, high-fived. It was insane. The streets were packed. I went outside and spent an hour or two high-fiving folks and shaking hands. It was unbelievable. And these celebrations lasted very late into the night (I remember a story saying that police shut down a street hockey match at approximately 03:00 that night). For a Canadian, it was the perfect end to the Olympics. A 3-2, nailbiter win, scored by one of hockey’s youngest and most talented players, Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguin hating aside, he’s pretty good). It couldn’t have been written any better.
This outpouring of nationalism is something foreign to Canada. We very rarely get that amped up in our nationalism. Sure, we wear flags on our bags when we head across the pond, but that’s about it. I discussed this with several classmates the next day and many were shocked at the outpouring of pride. Many claimed it was disgusting and that it felt so “American” (American hating continues).
Stephen Brunt, a writer for Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail, claimed halfway through the Olympics that “something remarkable was taking place”:
“It was as though an entire country was given permission to feel something it needed to feel. And it was the country that set the tone for the games, and not the other way around… [and] it wasn’t quite the script we were expecting. The story was supposed to be all about winning… about putting a new swagger in our step. [It] turns out the swagger was already there, it was just waiting for the right stage. The number of medals didn’t really matter… we didn’t really need to own anything. What mattered was the occasion, what mattered was the event, what mattered was the excuse to wave the flag and sing the anthem and shout it out loud. Cynicism is easy, so is retreating into historic grudges… so is believing it doesn’t really matter what you call yourself, or where you live. It does matter, or at least it can. It is important to have a shared history. And admit it; it feels good… to let your heart show.”
While Brunt does get caught up in himself, he captures what the Olympics were: it was a chance for Canadians to brag about being Canadian and for people to actually listen because the camera was on us for those two weeks. It’s weird, I think, because I don’t think you need to tell the average American that it’s ok to be proud of being American; to wear flags and jerseys and patches and cheer the very fact that you were born or raised or that you lived in the US. Canada needed it, though.
This, I proposed, was the beginning of what I termed to be Canada’s “new nationalism”. It was a step forward — where, I wasn’t sure, but it was forward. It was a move decidedly away from the tired old “we’re not American” bullshit that had enveloped us. For awhile, I thought that it would stick. Canada’s Brian Williams and Stephen Harper both suggested that the “patriotism was always there” and that the games provided an opportunity for Canadians to show it. Williams hoped that that would be the legacy of the games. I was more optimistic: I hoped that we would maybe become a nation never afraid to be patriotic.
So far, I’m only partly right, and even then, wish I was entirely wrong.
After some conversations with folk online and off, I’ve had some time to think about MVRDV’s “The Cloud” project in Seoul, South Korea. I’d like to come at it with a certain angle, though, so I’ll start with this.
Since the end of World War II, Germans going through school are taught in almost excruciating detail about the Holocaust and Germany’s complicity in it. No one’s feelings are spared, and German students are reminded time and time again, not that “those Nazis” did this (in the way we, as non-Germans are taught that), but that “we” did this. The nation of Germany, which until 1871 wasn’t a nation in any true sense of the word (and after WW2 and until the fall of Berlin wall was again, a fractured nation), has taken full-on responsibility for the Holocaust and are properly commended for this. The victors write history, after all, and in the world’s history books, Germany was most certainly in the wrong.
But within the last generation or so, something interesting has begun to happen in Germany. German students are beginning to openly express frustration over what is still seen as their complicity in the Holocaust. Most superficial scholars of history paint all of Germany in one colour and as the nation that killed six million Jews and was lead blindly by Adolf Hitler in a mad bid to conquer the planet. Now imagine being a young German in Germany today: from a young age until the day you die, you’re constantly reminded of your nation’s shame and constantly told to carry that burden, even though you weren’t around in WW2 and your parents might have even been Holocaust victims themselves. Though my experience clearly pales in comparison to just about anyone else’s tale of discrimination, I have several times in my life been accused of being a Nazi or even Hitler himself on account of my German heritage. The accusation has nothing to do with fact, but it is still one made because of the actions of men long dead who I had nothing to do with.
So it is understandable that Germans want to move on. Every other year it seems there is either another Holocaust movie or a film that jokes about Germany and their complicity in that war. Whether it’s Schindler’s List, Inglorious Basterds, or even that Fawlty Tower’s sketch from so long ago, Germans are constantly reminded that even Oskar Schindler, who is the protagonist and ostensible hero of Schindler’s List, was still a German complicit in the Holocaust and despite what he did for the Jews, there’s always a notion that he could have done more or that he was just motivated by profit. To some extent, Germans deserve to carry the shame of WW2 (as Angela Merkel recently confessed in an address in Israel), and again, to Germany’s credit, they have done a damn fine job of rooting out anti-semitism and racism in Germany to the point that collecting Nazi memorabilia, a social faux pas but source of interest for many enthusiasts in the world, is illegal in Germany, many European countries, and even eBay. And while one could argue that to ban Nazi memorabilia is to pretend it doesn’t exist and to, in a sense, rewrite history, Germany at least deserves a ton of credit for the burden their youth have to carry for the sins of their grandfathers. And while poking fun at Germans for their complicity (and even poking fun at the Holocaust itself) has gotten a bit more in vogue in mainstream culture, for some it remains wildly inappropriate (and, well, fair enough).
I think another example that (perhaps) is closer to home is the subject of Native Americans and colonialism. It goes without saying that in 1492 (when Columbus sailed the ocean blue, etc), Europeans showed up to North America and began killing its inhabitants. I mean, to be frank the destruction caused by the colonization of North America was genocide, whether you’re talking about giving out smallpox-infested blankets or declaring war on them for encroaching on the land you stole from them. I would hate to be a Native American living in North America because of the systematic discrimination you face on a daily basis.”The white man”, to be non-PC, has been raping Native Americans since day one, and government policy to this day still discriminates against Native Americans.
But like young Germans in Germany today, at what point do we say, o”k, we’re sorry, now let’s move on”? I, personally, had nothing to do with the European conquest of North America, and I think very few of my readers did as well. The argument can be made that our presence is just a reminder of that, or we contribute to it daily, or whatever, but I don’t make my living or spend my spare time oppressing Native Americans — but every day, by virtue of my whiteness, I’m reminded of what we did to them. In British Columbia especially, every major public funding announcement or building construction (or even on occasion, university lecture), we begin with the almost cursory declaration that “we acknowledge that we are on Unceded Coast Salish territory“. It is necessary, in BC, for us to begin by acknowledging that the only reason we’re standing where we’re standing is because we stole the ground we’re standing on. It can go beyond that. Take for example the recent Missing Women’s Inquiry here in BC, which was an investigation into why police forces didn’t do more to investigate the disappearance of women, the majority of whom were street people and/or native. The thing began with a prayer from a first nations elder. Sure, it is somewhat appropriate maybe, but they likely would have caught hell if they prayed to Allah or Christ. One just has to Google “unceded coast salish territory” to be bombarded with public shamings, ranging from press releases that begin with “VANCOUVER, Unceded Coast Salish Territory” or speeches from the government recognizing that this bridge/bank/park/convention centre/whatever is on unceded Coast Salish territory. It manifests itself in crazy ways, such as renaming the Queen Charlotte Islands (named after a boat named after Queen Charlotte) the Haida Gwaii or the recent proposal to rename Stanley Park in Vancouver, BC (named after the same Stanley for which the Stanley Cup is named) to Xwayxway. To me, the constant platitudes we lob towards Natives (as though renaming a bunch of islands people fish off of to Haida Gwaii is going to undo centuries of oppression) is insulting to both parties. At some point, whether we’re talking about The Crusades or the Crucifixion of Christ or Japanese internment camps in WW2 or genocide in Germany and in North America or Pearl Harbour or, well, 9/11, eventually we have to forgive and move on, maybe.
My point with “The Cloud” thing was several-fold: firstly, what you see is what you see. Everyone sees something different when they look at the world. Perception is inherently flawed, and anyone who suggests otherwise doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As a mundane example, I have major astigmatism in my left eye and minor in my right. While I can function just fine without glasses, the world does appear to me a bit different without glasses or contacts. You can look at an ink blot and see a man with a knife or look at a cloud and see a bunny: that’s perception. And, when it comes to perception, you can’t be told you’re wrong to some extent. What you see is what you see. If you see a ghost, you might be crazy or you may need to make a phone call, but the undebatable fact is that you saw x. If you look at The Cloud and see the World Trade Centre towers engulfed in flame, that is what you see. That may not be what the designers intended, but that’s what you saw. Language obviously has a huge role in what you see: had I (or anyone else) just posted the picture sans words, you may not have “seen 9/11”. As it stands, I introduced the buildings as having that appearance. It’s like lawyer-speak: the difference between did you see that car? and did you see that blue car run that red light? are two very similar yet very different questions that, by the nature of their formation, imprint information into the mind of the person receiving the question.
My second point was, isn’t it interesting that North Americans instantly see 9/11 in these buildings? I am sure that people from Norway or Spain or Australia or China or South Korea or Zimbabwe or England would be more likely to see something different. As it stands, I think it would be very interesting to take the picture and present it to various people of various ethnicities, living in various jurisdictions, and asking them what they see, because I guarantee you, people from different regions are likely to see different things. My girlfriend (an American) instantly saw the WTC buildings. As a Canadian, I did not instantly see them but after I read an opinion piece saying that’s what they look like (and S. Korea et al were being insensitive, etc), I saw it. And I think by virtue of the fact that 9/11 is a bigger deal in America than it is in Canada (though many in Canada still recognize 9/11 with a moment of silence), and obviously a bigger deal in America than it is in South Korea or Iran or North Korea or Taiwan or the Ukraine, Americans are more likely to see 9/11 than any other nationality. Again, I don’t have any scientific evidence, but to suggest otherwise is to argue that nationality has nothing to do with one’s perception, which seems easily debatable.
Thirdly and finally, and this is why I opened with a thousand or so words talking about tragedy and it’s evolution, at what point can we, as a society, move on? Let’s assume that x% of Americans, when seeing the picture up top, “see 9/11”. In ten years, will that percentage go up and down? In twenty, thiry, forty — when will people not see 9/11? Three weeks after 9/11, Gilbert Gottfried famously complained that he attempted to catch a flight but couldn’t get a direct flight because “they said they have to stop at the Empire State Building first.” He was heckled, and though he won back the crowd, took a lot of flack for his joke. Holocaust jokes, Nazi jokes, Native jokes, and jokes about 9/11 are OK in some circles, but obviously not in others. I ended on “Too soon?”, if only because, well, when isn’t it too soon?
Barack Obama’s presidency has been marked by two things: a failure to live up to the “HOPE” and “CHANGE” that defined his candidacy (unless you count kind-of-closing-Guantanamo and repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as being colossal victories), and a spree of badass one-liners and longcocking.
I mean, there was the whole killing Osama bin Laden thing, then there was him schooling Donald Trump and all the birthers at the White House Correspondence dinner. For awhile, it looked like he was all out of magic. Then came this:
I know what you’re thinking: oh my God, that’s badass. And you know what? It is.
There are a lot of things I don’t understand about Obama. I don’t understand, for example, why he spent the first part of his term in office playing compromise with the Republicans knowing it wouldn’t accomplish anything. But one thing that always bugged me was his wit. One just has to read Dreams From My Father to see he’s a smart guy. Hell, just listen to him talk and it’s obvious. Personally though, watching him when he was running against McCain and for the first part of his presidency, I wasn’t exactly blown away. Now that he actually seems to be trying, I’m pretty impressed.
Of course, quips and one-liners don’t (always) win elections. Months ago I figured that his re-election was a sure thing. Now, I’m having my doubts. Not because his opponents have improved, but because I honestly think he’s been doing worse. People like a strong leader and a strong President. Saying “Ask Osama bin Laden… [if] I engage in appeasement” or schooling Donald Trump or making fun of his invisible Vice President Joe Biden.
Obama, I’m sure, wants to be remembered as a leader of substance, one who challenged politicians on both sides of the fence to work together to make America a better place. He does not, I imagine, want to be remembered as “the funny president” or “the witty president” or even “the black president”. I get it. But Obama needs to show America and the world — because, let’s face it, who is in the White House is pretty important to every individual on the planet — that he’s a strong leader. Showing his enemies that he doesn’t fuck around is a good way of doing that.
I originally submitted this to The Peak and it was published in the September 19th edition. It was edited into a transcript, which I didn’t entirely like. Here’s the original for your perusal.
Obama Tough on Budget
In a speech delivered at the White House yesterday, President Barack Obama outlined a strategy to tackle the rising US National Debt.
“It’s not going to be easy – doing the right thing rarely is. We – myself and Vice President Joe Biden – looked down every avenue, trying to minimize the damage. It’s a fact that our national debt is rising; we’re spending more money than we’re making, and that is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. Beginning today, things are going to change”, the President said at the Obama family’s Sunday dinner.
“We’re starting right at the basics: toilet paper. Value brand only, from now on. Same goes for soap and shampoo,” he added curtly. “I’ll try to cut out trips to the salon, which means you have to too, Michelle,” he said with a wink. “Kids, less eating out. Michelle, more bagged lunches for the kids. I’m going to cut out Starbucks trips and instead bring coffee from home. That means a short-term capital investment in a Thermos, but it will pay dividends in the end. Shorter showers to cut down the heating and water bills. We’re shutting down the A/C for the rest of the summer, such as it is, and come winter we won’t be turning on the heat. If you’re cold, put on a jacket or an extra sweater.”
“There are some corners we couldn’t cut, of course. Netflix, for example. It only costs a few bucks a month I figure, so that won’t make a huge debt, and really we’re saving money by using it. Along with that means fewer trips to the movies. I’m cancelling the home phone, since we don’t use it anyway, and adjusted our family plan. It means fewer minutes and texts, but I set up Unlimited Incoming calls. If you need to talk to someone, call them, ask them to call you back, and hang up,” Obama said.
“It’s not going to be easy – the road ahead is tough, but I believe, God willing, the American spirit of ingenuity and hard work will pay off. Thank you, and God bless America”, the President concluded, returning to his meatloaf.
Critics were quick to point out Barack Obama was drinking Buckler Beer at dinner – a low-alcohol variant of Heineken, an import , but the President defended the decision, saying that “Joe [Biden] brought it over” and that he still preferred Bud Light.