By: James Clingman
Looks like Rodney King is living in the White House these days, y’all. Before you start writing your letters and e-mails to me for having the nerve to say something negative about our President, consider our current situation. We need to open our eyes and our minds to the reality of politics, once and for all, by understanding the nature of the beast.
You’ve heard the story about the frog that the scorpion get on his back for a ride across the pond. The frog said he would do it if the scorpion would not sting him. The scorpion assured the frog he would not harm him in return for the ride across the water. When they reached the other side, the scorpion stung the frog; and as the frog lay dying he said, “You promised you wouldn’t sting me,” to which the scorpion replied, “I was just being true to my nature.”
Lying, backstabbing, grandstanding, accepting bribes, assassinating one’s character, cheating, stealing, cursing, and fighting are among the characteristics on display among many of our politicians. In other words they are a mirror of society in general. Too often we hold them up as paragons of integrity, ethics, and morality, only to be let down when they fall from grace.
We send them to Washington with more financial security than most of us could ever dream of having, and they pass laws that adversely affect us but have no effect on their lives. They debate Social Security and healthcare but are not required to participate in the same programs they legislate for us. They determine how we will live, without having to be subjected to those same rules, and without having to pay a price for being wrong. What a life, huh?
Now we have a President who seems to think he can change the political landscape; he seems to believe that hundreds of years of political gamesmanship can be swept aside, and common sense will prevail. He subscribes to the notion that all he has to do is make a speech, do a town hall meeting, or an interview explaining his agenda, and all will be well in Washington and in this country. He seems to be asking the Rodney King question over and over again. And coming from the President of the Untied States, someone who knows how politics works, it sounds even more ridiculous.
Barack Obama was swept into office by a riptide of emotion, hope, and exasperation at the previous eight years. He was ballyhooed and ushered in on the fragile wings of instant stardom and fame, so much so that it seems he even believed the hype. But, now that he is in office, and the crazies have come out of woodwork, he finds himself having to respond to the ire of many of the same folks who hailed him as their new chief on January 20, 2009.
Obama is busy plugging holes is the dike and is fast running out of fingers. He was forced to take time to have a beer with two guys who had a spat, and offered it to us as a teachable moment that would demonstrate we can indeed all get along. He is on the road explaining his healthcare plan, trying desperately to get his opponents to get on board and get along with him as well. He is attempting to be all things to all people, albeit disciplinary when it comes to Black people; but that’s another article. All of this in his utopian endeavor to have us all get along.
Memo to President Barack Obama: After Rodney King was beaten senseless by those police officers, all he could utter is “Can’t we all get along?” All he could muster the nerve to say before the cameras of the world, before a public shocked beyond their imagination at what happened to him, recorded for everyone to see, was “Can’t we all get along?” It was his time to shine, his time to teach, his time to enlighten; but he blew it big time and squandered his fifteen minutes of fame with that immature, naïve, rhetorical question.
In this country, Mr. President, as you well know, the political system of which you are now at least the titular leader is a system grounded in rancor and adversity, a system that wreaks of discord, a system comprising childlike adults who always want their way, and a system based on a 250-year struggle for the ultimate aphrodisiac: power. You are in charge of a system whose participants have fought like cats and dogs over every little thing, and now you pose the question, “Can’t we all get along.
After years of being beat up, all while watching it take place before our eyes on the evening news; most of the folks who elected you are not down with the Rodney King inquiry. We expect much more from you. Get some backbone, stand up to the political thugs and do the right thing. Don’t go down as simply a “big-baller,” be a true “shot-caller.” And how about looking out for Black folks every now and then too? After all, you are the President.
Politicians have been battling for centuries, and have demonstrated in no uncertain terms that the answer to the question, Can’t we all get along?” is an emphatic, unequivocal, unapologetic, “NO.
James E. Clingman, an adjunct professor in the University of Cincinnati's African American Studies Department, is former editor of the Cincinnati Herald newspaper and founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce. He hosts the radio program ''Blackonomics'' and has written several books. To book Clingman for a speech or to purchase his books, go to his Web site or call him at (513)489-4132.