You know what the how-dare-Obama-speak-to-our-creationist-children movement needs? It needs a leader. A mouthpiece. A manifesto. A defense of its core principles so spectacularly inept that researchers who uncover it thousands of years from now will consider it the archetype of pre-Ice Age 2100 satire. "My," they will say in their hover-palaces while poring over the fossilized remains of Ed Asner, "those early 21st Century Americans could spin a yarn!" I'm not sure why they'll be using 19th Century slang, but I am sure that they'll be at a loss for alternative explanations of Marybeth Hicks' "America's Uber-Parent? I think not." They will read it and reach the only possible conclusion: Hicks was the spokeswoman of a movement of spectacular vision and intelligence, delivering a message so brilliant that mere logic and reading comprehension are powerless against it.

Every year, on the night before school starts, I announce that it’s time to take a walk.

Leading with a personal anecdote is a common enough tactic, but it takes a Master Writer to lead with one this goddamn interesting.

All six of us fan out throughout the house to find our flip flops, someone gets a leash for Scotty the dog, and we set out in a disorganized band up our street. But it’s not just a walk. It’s a ritual.

This is fascinating. Tune in next week for Marybeth Hicks' riveting tale of the time she folded the laundry.

Quite the creative name for the dog, by the way.

This year was no exception.

Having already said "Every year" and describing it as a "ritual," I'm not sure this was necessary, MBH.

On the evening before we took our second daughter off to college, my husband, our four children and I took turns confiding our goals for the coming school year.

I'm guessing Second Daughter's goal had something to do with making the smallest possible number of visits home.

It's an annual rite


The message we deliver to our children as they reveal their fondest hopes for themselves is not unlike the message President Obama attempted to deliver in his address to school children yesterday.

I sure would be furious if anyone other than me attempted to deliver my own message to my children.

Make goals for yourself and announce them to others so you’ll be accountable. Work hard. Take responsibility for your success. Get help when you need it.

I'm seething in anger just thinking about that darkie I didn't vote for the President delivering such partisan nonsense to our young people.

Since the President’s message was so similar to the advice we give our own children every year, why am I so bugged by the fact that he took to the airwaves and the Internet to deliver this speech to America’s public school students?

I took the liberty of preparing a list of potential responses, each equally valid.

1. You are a complete partisan hack.
2. You are not real bright.
3. You are a knee-jerk reactionary.
4. You are a partisan knee-jerk reactionary who is not real bright.

Why does it seem so creepy to me?

We're a tad repetitive, aren't we? It creeps you out because the President is black and far smarter than you is clearly stepping over a line.

I’ve wrestled with this question since last week when it was revealed that the speech would take place.

This might be the single most useless sentence in the history of English. You just asked the question. TWICE. You follow by telling us that you are asking yourself the question, an action prompted by the realization that the event existed.

Marybeth, I'm thinking about taking a dump. I've been debating the issue since I realized I had to take a dump. I'm glad we had this talk.

I certainly don’t object to presidential addresses being aired in schools in the event of a national emergency such as 9/11, or during an historic occasion such as an inauguration.

So, just to get this straight, she wouldn't have complained if Obama's inauguration was covered live nationwide in our schools. OK. Also, it was acceptable to expose children to Bush's absolutist, opportunistic neoconservative monologues – how else will our children learn who is With Us as opposed to With the Terrorists, who is and is not Evil? – but not Obama's suggestion that they have goals.

So I asked myself, am I cynical about the overly political nature of this speech simply because I disagree with the President’s politics?


MBH, I'm confused. You clearly wrote this before the speech aired, first of all. But more importantly, like THIRTY GODDAMN SECONDS AGO you described the substance of the President's speech as "Make goals for yourself and announce them to others so you’ll be accountable. Work hard. Take responsibility for your success. Get help when you need it." Moreover, you noted that this is exactly the same message you communicate to your spawn annually. Every year. Añualménte. And now it's "overly political?"

Those who favor the president’s speech to school children point to previous addresses by George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan as proof that a precedent has already been set for such an address.

This is a dubious point, of course, because Bush and Reagan are not Negro liberals avoided the overly political nature of Obama's Indoctrination Address which was administered to schoolchildren with the Ludovico Technique.

I’m loath to be labeled a hypocrite, so I went back and read those speeches. Now I know why President Obama’s talk bothers me.

Yes, MBH and hypocrisy are oil and water. Please tell us, Objective Observer, what egregious errors exist in the secret Muslim brown guy's President Obama's speech but not in the others.

George H.W. Bush talked to schoolchildren via closed circuit TV to encourage greater interest in science and math. He used the occasion of a space launch to focus on the sciences at a time when it had been well established that US students paled in comparison to others around in the world in this essential discipline.

I remember that. I was in 5th grade. Very appropriate. You might even say Bush was encouraging us to have goals, try hard, and pay attention in math and science classes.

Even still, then-Speaker of the House Richard Gephardt said, “The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the president, it should be helping us to produce smarter students.”

Well his criticism was ignored, and if you read it (that's the crucial part, MBH) you'll note that it deals with the role of the Dept. of Education and the use of its resources.

Ronald Reagan’s speech was something else entirely.

I will say this only once, MBH: we are in absofuckinglute agreement here.

Was it political? Absolutely.

Yes, and therefore inappropriate by the standards described above.

It was a primer on American political theory. Reagan didn’t insert himself into the personal lives of his audience, but instead asked school children to insert themselves into the public life of our nation. His speech didn’t focus on personal goals but on the sacrifices of our founders to establish the freedom to make such goals.

True, true. It contained non-partisan history lessons like "We also find that more countries than ever before are following America's revolutionary economic message of free enterprise, low taxes, and open world trade. These days, whenever I see foreign leaders, they tell me about their plans for reducing taxes and other economic reforms that they're using, copying what we have done here in our country. I wonder if they realize that this vision of economic freedom — the freedom to work, to create and produce, to own and use property without the interference of the state — was central to the American Revolution when the American colonists rebelled against a whole web of economic restrictions, taxes, and barriers to free trade. The message at the Boston Tea Party — have you studied yet in history about the Boston Tea Party, where, because of a tax, they went down and dumped the tea in the harbor? Well, that was America's original tax revolt. And it was the fruits of our labor — belonged to us, and not to the state."

Right wingers do not even understand that their ideology is an ideology. They think it is simply fact.

That’s the crucial difference, and the reason Mr. Obama’s message bothers me.

In the battle between the imagined version of Reagan's speech in MBH's head and the imagined version of Obama's speech in MBH's head, there can be only one victor.

The President of the United States is not the “First Father.” His role is not to be an uber-parent, offering sage advice on personal behavior for school kids via televised lectures.

Like…telling kids they should be interested in math and science? Or perhaps Father Reagan's History Lessons like "And I definitely believe it is because one of the principal reasons that we were able to get the economy back on track and create those new jobs and all was we cut the taxes. We reduced them because, you see, the taxes can be such a penalty on people that there's no incentive for them to prosper and earn more and so forth because they have to give so much to the Government."

Non-partisan, that.

If we accept this display of “non-partisan parenting,” we’re tacitly acknowledging that the government of the United States of America has an appropriate role to play in raising our children. I don’t think it does.

You know what? Fuck it. I'm just going to keep quoting Reagan's address at this point. "There was talk about having a gun ban in California. I got a letter from a man in San Quentin prison…He was a burglar. And he said, 'I just want you to know that if that law goes through, here in San Quentin there will be celebrating throughout the day and night by all the burglars who are in prison because…the only question we can never answer is: Does the man in that house have a gun in the drawer by his bed?…If you tell us in advance they won't have a gun in that drawer by their bed, the burglars in here will be celebrating evermore."'

Even if the message is a positive one, the very fact that it has been delivered is intrusive and assumptive and just plain creepy.

Wait, so, I'm confused again. Were Bush's and Reagan's messages, positive and "non-partisan" as they were, intrusive and assumptive and just plain creepy? Does "Study math and science rather than making your own educational choices" count as intrusive or assumptive?

Then again, my kids didn’t see the speech. They went for a walk with their parents instead.

You took your kids for a walk between 12:00 and 12:45 Eastern on Tuesday? You sound like mother of the year.

Congratulations on your hard-fought victory over the Straw Man Obama who suggested – or even implied – that the President's role should supersede that of parents. Congratulations on somehow turning this into a False Dilemma in which your children must either go for a walk with their mother or listen to Obama, but not both. Congratulations on putting together a document of such historical significance, one which we can point at for the next few decades and exclaim "See? This is what we had to deal with."


  • Delicious! You're absolutely right about the right's blindness to ideology. Case in point: Loofah Sponge's "No Spin Zone" – or, er, 'Fair and Balanced.' If you were to try to point out that there is no such thing as objective journalism (As Doctor Thompson has proven over and over again), they would call you a – gasp – cultural relativist.

    Seems like fighting stupid with brains is akin to a Chinese-finger trap. I'm out of ideas….

  • I'm starting to wonder if we should even respond to this shit anymore beyond just shaking our heads and saying "Useless. Anyway, it's grown-up time again!"

    And then go back to governing the country again.

    It's almost as if engaging it all, even for the purposes of hilarious ridicule, is giving it a validity that it hasn't earned.

    Like…Just let the dumbshits seethe and bitch in their style-free suburban homes with laminate countertops and homeschool everything the resident broodmare shits out and, you know, fuck them. Demographically, they're dying off, and more and more, their kids are getting over the insidious stupidity that defines their parents.

    Am I being callous here?

  • "Demographically, they’re dying off, and more and more, their kids are getting over the insidious stupidity that defines their parents."

    Evan, ARE they dying off? It seems to me that this is a kind of hysteria that's infectious; I'm hearing so much more of it, and from places I wasn't quite expecting, than I ever have before.

    I'm not sure it's wise to take the "ignore them and they'll go away" approach. While I agree that it's an exercise is infuriating futility to try to engage these people (trust me, I know this from very personal experience), I'm also not willing to write them off and go on with my life. I'm thinking that, at the very least, intellectual containment is necessary. We need to keep calling out the crazies, lest they be thought of by the populous as reasonable because no one's objecting to their messages.

  • You're right. All the verbiage, all the smears, all the false comparisons can be summed up in two words. He's black.

  • While I can agree with most of it, Ed, I have trouble accepting the (admittedly hilarious) sarcasm that points to possible racist motives on the part of these wingnuts. While I think that Obama being "one o' dem 'dere darkies" certainly plays a part in it for some of them, I don't think it's a central reason to their opposition. I fully believe that any other Democrat would have received similar objections, as this is all just the end result of talk radio's escaltor ride to hell where they have to keep one-upping themselves on the rage-o-meter to keep their desensitized audiences coming back for more.

    MBH's argument, towards the end, was basically fancy word-dancing to say "Reagan and Bush were okay because they were partisan political speeches I agreed with" without being obvious about it. In the end, all she's saying is "But Obama is a filthy Liberal so it's bad", which really isn't about race so much as the jarring dichotomy she's been brainwashed by the right-wing media to believe in.

    America, contrary to popular Republican belief, was not founded on "Conservative principles". It was founded on the idea that with a group of people this large, one size does not fit all and you're going to have to make compromises. That's what our system of checks and balances was about. Unfortunately, both of our viable modern political parties have twisted it from "Let's come to a middle-ground compromise" to "Let's try to get in power and shove as much of our side down the nation's throat while we can, before the other side gets in power and does the reverse."

  • I'd like to believe that the motive behind this isn't racial, but I don't seem to recall hysterical freaks screaming "I want my country back" 7 months into Clinton's presidency. I think the author makes the valid point that the hysteria we've seen is pushed into a special realm of crazy by the fact that a young, smart, black guy is now the president. Since Clinton was both young and smart…

  • @John:

    "MBH’s argument, towards the end, was basically fancy word-dancing to say 'Reagan and Bush were okay because they were partisan political speeches I agreed with' without being obvious about it."

    I think you're off on this. I might be wrong, but I think she actually believes that Bush's and Reagan's speeches where non-partisan and non-political. Or as Ed said, "Right wingers do not even understand that their ideology is an ideology. They think it is simply fact."

  • Once again you impress me, Ed – it looks like beating bunnies to death with fish in a barrel to write this stuff, but I personally couldn't get 2 sentences in without becoming simultaneously so infuriated and bored with your source of inspiration that I would go off and start hitting my thumb with a hammer just to get my mind off it. Kudos!

  • John, I think the racism of many Obama-haters is much deeper than "I don't like dem darkies;" it's more hidden, less easy to articulate, just a part of who they are. They'd tell you themselves they aren't racists, that they have black and hispanic friends. But I believe it's still there, underneath so many non-race-related arguments against him. Maybe I'm nuts! But I don't think so.

  • I'm with Joanna. I have heard a lot of discomfort from whites that is vague, exaggerated, and illogical. They may be non-racist by choice, but they probably don't have friends or family who aren't white, and have pop culture stereotypes as their sole data universe.

    Their reasons sound like Peter Griffin/Homer Simpson denial — he's a commie, he's a lawyer, he's a Muslim, he's not even a real citizen, and if he is, he's still not eligible to be president, and besides, he shot my dog, and anyway, he's wrong about everything! This stupid woman agreed with his message, but kept calling the address "creepy," even though two other presidents did it and it was fine.

    Her bizarre tapdance makes it clear: she just doesn't want that black man talking to her children.

  • It's an annual rite.
    Almost better than in Monty Python And The Holy Grail, in the scene with the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch:
    And the Lord spake, saying, "First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it.

  • I agree that much of what passes for "principled objection" to Obama's tenure is based in racism. The birther movement is, for instance, pure, naked, unalloyed darkie-hating, and the simple proof of this is that one cannot in any way imagine similar claims being made against a person of lily-white hue. The problem is that these groups tend to bleed into one another–scratch a birther and you'll probably find someone who also believes in death-panels.

    What strikes me as something of a missed point, though, is that the vitriol spouted at Obama isn't just directed at him, but at his supposed beneficiaries–the great legacy of Reagan's Revisionist View of Big Government is that (shhh! don't say this part in mixed company even though we all know it's true!) it's mostly there to help shiftless lazy negros and wetbacks who probably use the money to buy drugs to sell to innocent young white girls so they can more easily rape them. Also, remember: only the dark-skinned are Poor. You, the whites, are Hard Working. Which means that even though you and your black neighbors make the same shit-wage, and pay the same in no-loopholes-payroll taxes, he is Poor, and therefore he is leeching off of your Hard Work.

    So since the Reaganite masses are nicely comfortable in their belief that government mostly exists to take their money and give it to the mud-peoples, when Obama champions policies that directly benefit the Poor (which White Americans do not believe themselves to be), they hear the same old refrain of "I'mma take yo' cash to buy bling fo' mah bitches 'n bros, mah-fuckahs." And from there it's a quick step to the inner lynch-mob-member…

  • Shorter Hicks: Blackity black black blackness blacko black darkie black blackity blacky black black blackity black.

    Quite the creative name for the dog, by the way. Give her some credit here, tho. It could have been something even more dull — like, 'Buddy.'

  • Living in the rural midwest, I would say rather than black being the whole problem, much of the issue is with inner city culture. Certainly there is a large amount of overlap, but the issue is as much the culture as the color. and of course by the culture, I mean the culture that gets reported in the news

  • This is the shit I find SO INFURIATING. This column was written, one could suppose, to answer the charges that opposition to the Obama speech was hypocritical and disingenuous; to explain in a charming, homespun way, the real reasons; to articulate the nuance between this speech and others before it. And this was the best they could come up with. She could have just as easily, and effectively, said: "It's not that Obama is a socialist muslim negro that I find him speaking to students creepy; it's just that he's not a capitalist christian white man. You see the difference?"

  • @Michael: “It’s not that Obama is a socialist muslim negro that I find him speaking to students creepy; it’s just that he’s not a capitalist christian white man. You see the difference?”

    Yes, except Obama is two of those things (capitalist & christian).

  • Wait, the leader of our country should not address the citizens of our country and give them advice and direction? Because a leader should never give advice and direction to those who are lead.

    …Except if _I_ want him to!

    Is that a good summary of her post?

  • Hey, Ed…you wanna know my favorite thing about It's the fact that the font size of the text is at lest 3 times what it is on any other website, but the size of the advertisements compared to the text is somewhere in the 30-1 neighborhood.

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