You had better mind your manners with regard to Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.
You can't disagree with him. You can't question the legitimacy of his many platitudes and promises. And you had better watch it when you offer a litany of his flip-flops or point out his crass opportunism.
Be forewarned: If you say, sing, write, draw, paint or sculpt anything unflattering about Obama, expect the Spanish Inquisition. The salvational fervor and unfiltered euphoria surrounding the man have cast a halo around his head. A halo, as you know, suggests something otherworldly.
But I get way ahead of myself.
More than a week ago, the Rev. Jesse Jackson mistakenly whispered near a live Fox News microphone that he wanted to castrate Obama for "talking down" to black people about personal responsibility and for giving the government a bye. (I agree with Obama about assuming personal responsibility, but that's not the issue here.)
Hundreds of articles and columns have been written lambasting Jackson, the old civil rights lion, for his crudeness and his apparent malevolence toward Obama. Although the good reverend has apologized over and over, many important people, along with some foul-mouth, N-word-spewing rappers and black comedians, have called for Jackson to exit public life forevermore. Even Jackson's son, Little Jesse, got into the attack.
Following is my take on Jackson and that whisper. Under the circumstances, which I will explain, he had no choice but to whisper. His dilemma is the same as that of thousands of other blacks: You have problems with Obama the man and perhaps problems with his campaign. If, however, and for whatever reason, you need to be in the good graces of your fellow blacks, you had better not dis Obama in public or in private around the wrong people, especially if a mike is on.
Jackson truly has problems with Obama. But because of his public way of earning a living, his sense of self-worth and his need to preserve his civil rights legacy, Jackson sorely needs to be in the good graces of black people. To publicly criticize Obama, the Haloed One, would annul Jackson's membership in The Tribe and bring ostracism. Jackson knew that; therefore the whisper.
I'm not approving of Jackson's choice of words, mind you. But don't kid yourself. Thousands of other blacks dislike or even despise Obama, but they dare not let on.
Like it or not, what we saw in Jackson's whisper was raw frustration — the inability to speak freely about one of the most important developments in black history. When Jackson's comment was made public, the Spanish Inquisition came knocking.
The inquisitors showed up again after the New Yorker's July 21 cover came to light. The cartoon, Barry Blitt's creation, depicts Obama, wearing a turban, and his wife, Michelle, sporting an Afro hairdo, as terrorists bumping fists in the Oval Office. A U.S. flag burns in the fireplace, and the image of Osama bin Laden peers over the fireplace at his handiwork.
In an e-mail message to the media, the New Yorker's editor, David Remnick, explained the meaning of the cover: "The cover takes a lot of distortions, lies, and misconceptions about the Obamas and puts a mirror up to them to show them for what they are. It's a lot like the spirit of what Stephen Colbert does — by exaggerating and mocking something, he shows its absurdity, and that is what satire is all about."
That's what satire used to be about. In the Obama era, however, satire may be satire only if it pokes fun at anyone except the Haloed One. If it pokes fun at Obama or subjects related to the Obamas, it's described as being "crude," "tasteless and offensive," "insensitive," "racist" and so on.
The hypersensitivity coming from Obama and his minions is dangerous. Does anyone who's half literate not know that the New Yorker, in its singularly liberal way, lampoons everything and everyone? Nothing, especially a flawed individual, is sacred. That's a good thing.
If Obama's swooning, humorless supporters continue to force critics to whisper, to shut up or to explain their artistic renderings, our precious gift and right of free expression will diminish if Obama is elected in November.
These people need to know that some of us cherish free expression. They also need to know that if Obama needs to be protected from the satirist's rapier, he doesn't deserve to be the president of the United States of America.