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Published: Saturday, 7/19/2008

Occasionally some fail to get satire

BY ROSE RUSSELL

DAP me up, Barack!

The senator's response to the cover of the New Yorker magazine proves he understands that the First Amendment frees the media to make even outrageous expressions.

Not everybody gets satire, and when the literary device is not carried off very well - which Mr. Obama contended when he talked about it with Larry King early this week - it must be explained.

"Well, I know it was the New Yorker's attempt at satire. I don't think they were entirely successful with it. But you know what? It's a cartoon, Larry, and that's why we've got the First Amendment."

The drawing was supposed to be a spoof on the farcical belief that the Democratic presidential candidate and his wife Michelle harbor hate for America. He is depicted wearing Muslim clothing and she is in military garb. They are fist bumping - the media's description of dapping - one another in the Oval Office, where an American flag burns in the fireplace and the image of bin Laden hangs over the mantel.

The cover made jaws drop and some liberals said it was over the top. It also increased magazine sales and stirred debate - and that's the whole point.

And though there are calls for a boycott and for the magazine's editor, David Remnick, to resign, get real. If you don't want to buy it, don't. This is a free-press society. You start censoring the New Yorker and its artist Barry Blitt, then it won't be long before the rest of us are quieted or forced to alter our views.

Look, anyone who plays in the political big leagues must withstand big hits. Mr. Obama can cope. Though some say he's been given a free pass, he realizes no coddling is allowed.

"... One of the things when you're running for president for almost two years is, you get a pretty thick skin," he told King.

The road to the White House is rough, and if he gets to live there, his won't be a bed of roses. This right here is kids' stuff.

Oddly, when anyone expresses unfounded fears about Mr. Obama, few object to how Muslims are ridiculed.

The senator has demonstrated that he is not Muslim. "I'm a Christian and I wasn't raised in a Muslim home. I do think that, you know, in attempting to satirize something, they probably fueled some misconceptions about me instead," he said. "But, you know, that was their editorial judgment."

He also said it is objectionable to subject Muslims to the ongoing derision.

"You know, this is actually an insult against Muslim-Americans, something that we don't spend a lot of time talking about," he told King. "... There are wonderful Muslim-Americans all across the country who are doing wonderful things. And for this to be used as sort of an insult, or to raise suspicions about me, I think is unfortunate. And it's not what America's all about."

It's doubtful the cartoon will hurt or help him. Anyone who backs him will still vote for him. Anyone who believes the Obamas have antipathy for America won't change their minds, though some may use it to try to validate their false beliefs.

And what's wrong with Michelle wearing a 'fro anyway? New Yorker artist Blitt deserves some dap on that one!

Mrs. Obama won't want to change her hairdo anytime soon, though. Hair for black women is political, particularly when in its natural state it looks anything like a wiry afro. If she were to swap what I suppose is a relaxer for a 'fro, Lord have mercy. The fear mongers would have a heyday.

Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain certainly held my attention during his speech to the 99th annual NAACP convention Wednesday, though it was not as engaging as Mr. Obama's on Monday. Mr. Obama has more charisma. That has nothing to do with race. Even today I won't deny Bill Clinton's charisma.

Now, it's good the Rev. Jesse Jackson is out of the country. Nobody wants to hear what he has to say about anything. He can even forget explaining the latest revelation of the other remark he made at Fox News last week.

As if it weren't enough that he used gutter talk to express his discontent with Mr. Obama, Mr. Jackson then said the senator was talking down to African-Americans - though he used the N-word instead - telling blacks how to behave.

A year ago there was a "funeral" in Detroit to "bury" that word. Mr. Jackson obviously believes in the resurrection, since he resurrected the epithet, and just because he did does not mean it is OK to use. It is not. It is despicable.

Seems to me Mr. Jackson owes comedian Michael Richardson, entertainers, and anyone else who has flung that loathsome word around an apology.

Then he can bury it again, and keep quiet himself for a while.

Rose Russell is a Blade associate editor.

E-mail rrussell@theblade.com



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