Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

Insert bowling shoe in mouth

President Obama, Snarky, Special Olympics

I was not one of the people who voted for George Bush because it seemed like he was a regular guy. Someone you could drink a beer with over a side of barbecued beef and small talk. (Okay: I wasn't one of the people who voted for George Bush for any reason.) And I certainly didn't want to hear his jokes. Personally, I think the POTUS (President of the United States) should opt for a little dignified distance.


Familiarity breeds contempt, as did President Obama's gaffe on Jay Leno's Tonight Show the other night. Apparently trying to disparage himself, he mocked his own bowling performance as like something you might see in the Special Olympics.


Ouch. You'd hope someone as smart and sensitive as Obama would know better than to mock another group, even if the intent was self-ridicule. Making fun of others, especially groups that are less powerful, privileged, or otherwise fortunate than you are, is always in poor taste. And if you're a big enough honcho, it'll come back to haunt you.


The best response came from Special Olympic bowler Kolan McConiughey, who laughed and offered to teach Obama how to bowl. Grace and dignity are where you find them, not necessarily in the places of the mighty.


Others were harsher. I think that those rallying in scoldy indignation to make much of this would do well to watch their words, too. Maria Shriver, sister of Special Olympics chair Timothy Shriver, was more righteous than her brother (who accepted Obama's profuse apology). After claiming that the words "hurt millions of people throughout the world," she said, "People with special needs are great athletes and productive citizens."


Well, erm, yes and no. Some are, some aren't. If the point you want to make is that people with disabilities are like "us,"  then it's sort of silly to claim they have uniform qualities of greatness.


Sarah Palin's politically opportune comment is more instructive: "These athletes overcome more challenges, discrimination and adversity than most of us ever will." That sounds about right to me.


However, seeing that we're unlikely to cut people any slack or forgive them while hoping they learn from their mistakes, she might want to go back and edit her Special Olympics video. In speaking with joy about son Trigg, who has Down syndrome, she said that when he was born, "my heart filled up with love as my mind emptied. . ."


No telling what kind of field day people could have with that.



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