In light of Elizabeth Lauten’s recent comments on the attire of Sasha and Malia, Mark Boles asks where the hate and vitriol of her comments stem from.
Recently, a grown woman who “was” a communications director for a Tennessee senator decided that she’d take the Obama girls to task for basically being slovenly and disrespecting the office of the President of the United States during the pardoning of the turkey. Yes. The pardoning of a stupid turkey. One of the sillier presidential traditions. So let’s just keep that in context. Let’s be very clear, this is hardly the first time someone has tried to use the kids of the President as political fodder, however it has generally come from the pundits who spew vitriol for a living. That doesn’t make it any more or less okay but it’s to be expected from the likes of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter.
Here’s what she not only had the inclination to think and then put “pen to paper” as it were and post it on Facebook. Keep in mind this is from a grown woman who’s job it is to know and advise a politician of what to say and when.
“Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play. Then again your mother and father don’t respect the office very much, or the nation for that matter so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department. Nevertheless, stretch yourself. Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don’t make face during televised public events.”
I have two daughters.
They are both stunningly beautiful and charming and smart and athletic and in general all around wonderful. They are also different. At least in our community. You see, they are mixed race girls. Their mother is white and I am black. As such these wonderful little creatures got the best of both of us in this little package of mocha smooth skin and hair that everyone fawns over incessantly. But they live in a community that is probably about 98% white.
However as much as people in grocery stores touch their hair and compliment them on how adorable they are or how much their friends say they wish they had their hair, it didn’t matter that one day.
That one day when my eldest was all of a 2nd grader and two 5th grade boys made fun of her hair. “Your hair looks funny,” they said.
She was sad for days, always donning a headband or requesting braids. We didn’t know at first what it was that made her sad or why she so adamantly had to have her hair tamed. It took numerous exploratory conversations before what had happened finally emerged.
And it’s this that remains firmly planted in my mind when I recently read of the GOP staffer, Elizabeth Lauten’s Facebook post in which she publicly and unnecessarily derided the daughters of Barack and Michelle Obama.
Sasha and Malia had to endure yet another photo-op and happened to show their age. Dad was being, well, a dad, which is to say a dork, unassumingly embarrassing his daughters.
This past Thanksgiving weekend I had my girls and we were in New York City visiting my mom and family for the holiday weekend. My older daughter has long since sloughed off the malicious comment of those two boys. On Monday, she called me to ask what she needed to wear for the holidays. These days, she wants nothing to do with anything “girlie”. It’s all about sports and sneakers and sweats. I said she needed three nice outfits as we were attending the theater twice and a parade watching party at someone’s house. In other words, no sweats or t-shirts.
When we got to New York and she had to get dressed to go to the theater all that was in her bag were a pair of ill-fitting cargo pants and pair of way to skinny, skinny jeans. Not any of the nice clothes from Crew Cuts or Boden. None of the nice sweaters. Three pairs of Old Navy sweats, a t-shirt from a gymnastics meet, a long sleeved Patriots t-shirt and a long sleeved Bruins t-shirt. Not a collared shirt. Nothing. Nothing from the weekend of school shopping with her grandmother from earlier this fall. I was livid.
“Fine. Wear whatever you want. I don’t care,” I said tersely.
Here’s the thing, I did care. But not one other person did. No one looked at her as if she was bereft of anything or slovenly. After all she’s eleven and lithe, stunning, eloquent, charming and exceedingly polite. The host from the parade watching party, demanded hugs upon leaving. People still smiled at her. The only thing people noticed was her new braces.
I cared because of people like Elizabeth Lauten. Because of my need to “present” her as a way to protect her from the likes of the Elizabeth Lauten’s of the world. When in reality I should be learning from my daughters who have learned to embrace their difference, their curls, their mocha skin. Oh to have the confidence that they have. Of course in time they will have to “play the game.” And to some degree subscribe to “the code.” But for now they don’t.
And this is where I struggle with the root of Elizabeth Lauten’s comments.
They come from a place of hate. And where did this hate or level of vitriol come from? What happened?
If I didn’t know any better, I’m guessing that Elizabeth Lauten’s life is pretty cherry. I’m guessing there is little she wants for but for some reason she felt it appropriate to take 13 and 16 year old girls to task on their attitude and attire. The girls’ attitude was about as age appropriate as one might expect. The commentary on their attire was quite frankly just stupid. And let’s be honest, their dad was pardoning a friggin’ turkey.
Jamie Lee Curtis was quoted as saying, “Hurt people, hurt people.”
I suppose, deep down, Ms. Lauten is hurt or has been hurt. Nevertheless as a communications director, I would think that she would know better than to take two teenage girls to task for no good reason whatsoever other than her disdain for the President of the United States.
She remarked how she remembers those “teen years”. But does she really? Does she know how hurtful her remarks are? Does she know that 98% of women don’t find themselves attractive? It’s true. Dove created a multi-million marketing campaign around that simple realization.
What made it okay for this woman to “thoughtfully” author such a scathing critique of two young girls for really no reason whatsoever?
Of course an unintended consequence of her remarks (aside from losing her job) was that it brought out the history of how mean people have been to the daughters of various Presidents from Jimmy Carter to Bill Clinton to George Bush. I’m sure Chelsea Clinton is oh so pleased to be reminded that Rush Limbaugh once called her a dog and I’m sure Jenna Bush is stoked to have pics of her yawning at an event sitting behind her dad or being of her youthful debaucheries.
And again, I ask, what happened?
Why did it take her parents and the Lord for her to realize the error of her ways?
If she’s so beholden to the Lord it should be embedded that her remarks are hardly emblematic of Christian values, which the GOP seems to use when it’s convenient. At the end of the day, she’s become desensitized and less thoughtful. In other words she’s become a part of a culture of vitriol. There is a quote that goes something along the lines of “people in society do as their leaders do.” As such, if our political and business leaders are spouting off with vitriolic rhetoric and in general being mean-spirited then the rest of us will so see fit.
Sasha and Malia may never even know of Ms. Lauten’s remarks but I’m certain that Michelle and Barack do. As a parent, if I knew of the remarks, I’d be pissed. As my friend Christy recently penned, “I fear for the person who breaks my daughter’s rose colored glasses.”
So again, I ask, what happened?
Just what happened that this is where we are? That a woman who clearly should know better should have such angst as to bully two teenage girls because she hates the President of the United States so much.
This article originally appeared on Seldom TYPQL