04 August 2009

Shoe on the other foot

It’s hard to fit the shoe on the other foot.
It has been very interesting to watch the Internet reaction to mysterious posters of Barack Obama allegedly being posted in some parts of the United States. The poster, for those who haven’t heard, depicts the president in “Joker” make-up from the most recent “Batman” movie over a single word: “Socialism.”
According to an KTLA.com article on posters found in the Los Angeles area, Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable President Earl Ofari Hutchinson is calling the depiction “politically mean spirited and dangerous.”
What is interesting about this scenario is that the magazine Vanity Fair portrayed George W. Bush in the same make-up in 2008, and no one said a word. In fact, I remember far worse being said, some of it by yours-truly, about the 43rd president. I even went so far as to install his head on pictures of Adolf Hitler using Photoshop while pretending to pay attention in my college media classes.
For eight years, it was really easy to point fingers and scream about how bad the president was, how opportunistic and insincere he seemed, and how it seemed that he wanted to lead us down a path to our own destruction. When I cast my ballots Nov. 4, I think I did so in the hopes that it would change something - to present an alternative to the ham-fisted antics of George W. Bush. It was, in retrospect, the high water mark for eight years of bumper stickers reading, “Dissent is patriotic;” eight years of telling the other side how bad their president was doing; eight years of smugly telling ourselves that we could do it better.
Well, it’s our side (if there is such a thing) in the White House now – and it’s been somewhat of an eye-opener to me. One of the nice things about being in the opposition is that you can cast stones but don’t have to deal with the bruises. Is dissent still patriotic when someone you like is in the White House? Now, I find myself trying to explain why Obama did this or that to people who didn’t vote for him. It gives me a sense of what it must have been like for the embattled conservatives who tried to join the student newspaper at St. Cloud State - defending decisions you didn't make, and may not have agreed with, on the principal that the party you supported made them.
Here is the most ironic comparison of all: in a way, I've become what I once despised. On a bright fall day in 2004, when W. flew into St. Cloud for a rally, I was among hundreds of counter-protesters who showed up bright and early to express their displeasure with the 43rd presidents. The event went smoothly, until the conservative spectators who showed up to cheer W. on to another White House victory started to leave the baseball stadium that hosted the event, and crossed paths with the counter-protesters. It was as if you'd mixed baking soda and vinegar: it didn't explode, but it sure simmered. One of the most often-hear remarks I remember that day, thrown at us as an epithet from anonymous W. supporters, was the phrase, "Get a job." It stung. We were there because we cared deeply about the future of our country. Or thought we did, anyway.
Now, as I hear about people protesting health care reform, or demanding that Obama produce a birth certificate that proves he wasn't born in Kenya, I find myself saying the same thing: "Get a job."
It's certainly easier to blame than to try, isn't it?

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