Did you miss Barack Obama’s great inside joke this week? It is one of the all-time greats of American politics! It is in a galaxy beyond his own previous personal best! The joke, like so much of Barack’s success, depended on the circumstances. But it was so good, that the weather is cooling according to today’s report—the joke made the melting polar caps chill.
Barack’s humor can be hard to get. He expresses funny things as ideas. He likes ideas. He is cerebral. More Moms Mabley than Lucille Ball. But as both these ladies of American comedy did, he appreciates the value of bringing humor together with honesty.
His honesty is heard and not heard in what he says and where he is silent. His vision is not just about getting ahead, but changing relationships, and bringing everybody along. His perception and timing revives the best of the Africa’s proverb makers. He has stood six years at the center of the global fire, fueled by those who despise him at home. He faced heinous enemies.
Yes, he increased American jobs for 64 straight months. Yes, he–called socialist, partial to big government; tied to a political vision of safety nets and welfare–has created 64 month of private sector growth and doubled the stock market indexes. Yes! All as he used the economic embargo as an international tool to great effect (Russia, Iran, Sudan).
But this President laughs! His humor is tuned in. His best chuckles are long term.
Republicans have never accepted Barack Obama as Commander-in-Chief, but see him instead as the flag bearer, the defenseless object of enemy fire, surrounded and bearing down on from all sides.
As he said was saying in his speech to the Peoples of Africa:
“Dignity — that basic idea that by virtue of our common humanity, no matter where we come from, or what we look like, we are all born equal, touched by the grace of God. (Applause.) Every person has worth. Every person matters. Every person deserves to be treated with decency and respect. Throughout much of history, mankind did not see this. Dignity was seen as a virtue reserved to those of rank and privilege, kings and elders. It took a revolution of the spirit, over many centuries, to open our eyes to the dignity of every person. And around the world, generations have struggled to put this idea into practice in laws and in institutions.”
Blind to the values of progress, Republicans created a culture of the flag boy/spy boy, of the minstrel to surround Barack. But something strange happened. The characters of attack were separated from truth and became best known for their antics.
In the looking glass, they fall into the President’s trap. His humor is always situational–which makes it real hard to deny. So in the now frenzy of criticism aimed at him, he takes last year’s old news, silencing anyone wanting to engage in that fight on his ancestral ground. No takers! He slyfully mocks the antics of those who use his heritage to bash him.
It’s bashing season in America. And so far, only Lindsay Graham has shown any evidence of humor among the GOP hopefuls. All are Hopeful and promising backward change! Bombast and bitterness drive their belief in America. Bullies! Where is their joy and balance?
In the media, Barack’s big moment was misinterpreted or either told straight. It received no recognition for the flash of insight that motivated him to go off script and talk about the Republican Presidential race, making a segue from providing an example of why politically and morally African leaders should transfer power through democratic elections, and respect law and the vitality that comes with new national leaders.
Describing his own experience as President, saying he was looking forward to stepping down, he suddenly switched course. Standing in Kenya, the country of his father, the “proud American, the son of Africa” so often labeled an outsider had come home to an insider’s welcome. In front of a hometown crowd in Ethiopia of assembled leaders from across the continent, he told his opponents who once snidely called him Kenyan as an epithet, he “could win a third term.”
Despite your efforts to bring me down, I beat you twice. As your same efforts continue, I would win again. Who does not see the truth in that? Its humor lie in it being cast as an aside. A salty snap of hometown hubris for the diaspora. Hidden as irrelevant, distracting—when within the platform of experience that is national leadership, it was the completely the opposite.
An Obama Proverb:
Those who deny the dignity of others lose their worth.
Every African leader in the room wanted to see a little American politics. They wanted to know the style and ideas Obama used; they wanted that taste. They see American politics as rough and tumble as Africa’s, without the violence. The room wanted to know what Barack could do.
So Barack went live. The comment that many thought was irrelevant was a demonstration of a quick, stinging rebuke of the flapping ineptness of Republican politics and its not-ready-for-primetime players, a wasp’s rasp. The pain left intensifying after its bearer has lightly landed on the skin and ascended again.
On a tropical continent, the idea of the small defeating the large (the I Ching calls it, “the taming power of the small” ) is a daily preoccupation, a reality that even Presidents can not escape. The folklore speaks of a daily wish for relief from insects who have outsized effects! But the pesky, small African has seized power! Without tanks and weapons! The son of Kenya and Africa is the President of America! Throw a punch. Let us see, Air Force One Obama. Swing!
He tells, in Africa’s tough terms, an electoral joke. (Knowing Republicans are listening as they go yelling about holocaust oven doors, the first being the worst; ignoring their own bipartisan, Presidential-lead votes and they impugn his dignity; these vipers of nullification).
Seven diverse world capitols—in China, Russia, Germany, France, and the UK—are participants and signatories to the non-nuclear accord with Iran—the one 47 Republican senators wrote to Iran’s foreign minister to disavow.
Jobs up! Wages beginning a movement, within states and cities! Healthcare expanded, no limits. Profits high! “I can win a third time.” He’s not playing the dozens or selling wolf tickets; this is not mean-spirited anti-colonialism. It’s the cold, plain truth! None of the 16 in the race to replace him could beat him. Barack’s humor never trivializes politics and goes after your IQ. I have written about single incident politics, but often Barack’s strategy is the single, simple winning move.
His departure became a speech highlight because it brought America’s politics to Africa for the first time, as it has been in Europe and Israel (but not yet China). The moment used the joke as the spear in the home place of Kenya, founded by Jomo Kenyatta; showing the sharp-edged superiority of mind by Air Force One.
It is a joke that gets better and bigger because it was met in silence. None of the 16 responded to the direct insult. Of course, the point is moot, like so many Republican policies. What could they say if they knew it were true?
I’m still laughing! In front of an attack by the American President before an audience of African leaders, GOP candidates shut-up. Barack showed them–tea party; governors, senators, fund raisers, family heir, stocking horses, all–the power of silent submission and forced them to bow down.
It is so delicious! Did they, the 16 hopefuls, say something? No? The President used a one liner to flex his politics, answer personally, completely silence the opposition and win respect for Africa. A home run, across the street, out of the park!
Air Force One Obama!