Conservative outrage over President Obama’s behavior at Nelson Mandela’s funeral reflects an old and ugly trend.
In case you missed it, a lot of conservative news outlets have been outraged over the perceived bad behavior of President Obama at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. The New York Post informed us that the President of the United States, “lost his morality, his dignity and his mind…” after he took an infamous selfie with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt. Other conservative news sources informed us that the first lady must have been outraged at her husband’s tomcatting behavior.
Unfortunately this is nothing new. Political scientist Jonathan Bernstein drew the tongue in cheek conclusion that:
In fact, the evidence strongly suggests that there is, somewhere (at the RNC? Fox News?) a Senior Funeral Exploiter whose job it is to carefully monitor all funerals, memorial services, and other potentially solemn occasions in which Democratic politicians are expected to attend with the goal of finding some “inappropriate” behavior. And once it’s identified, it spreads rapidly through the GOP-aligned press.
The classics of the genre are the Paul Wellstone Funeral and Bill Clinton at the Ron Brown funeral.
I think that’s about right. And I think this trend is damaging to our country and our politics. These pieces convene a narrow and shallow view of masculinity in which the role of a man, or president, in a funeral is to be a solemn stone pillar of strength that never, ever betrays a hint of emotion, let alone happiness. I’m sure some people were overwhelmed with grief at Mandela’s funeral, I bet others would agree with a statement like, “Yes it is sad that he is gone, but it is joyous that we get to be here and celebrate his life in this new nation that he helped to create.” There shouldn’t be anything wrong with expressing that at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. Just as it should be okay for a man to sob like a 4-year-old while his wife is the solemn stone pillar of strength at a different funeral.
But moreover, these expressions of furious outrage seem kind of pointless. The people who think this proves Barack Obama is an uncaring brute unfit for the White House are most likely the same people who think he’s a Kenyan crypto-Islamic socialist. That may be all well and good for those people, but to the rest of us it seems like a great disservice to political commentary and to Nelson Mandela himself.
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–AP Photo by Matt Dunham