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Unspoken Assumptions and Unfounded Fears

This week, President and Mrs. Obama are touring Europe, their first stop being Great Britain and the G-20 summit. The media have spent almost as much energy discussing Mrs. Obama’s potential fashion choices as they have the chances of Mr. Obama getting other European governments to increase their own domestic stimulus spending. However, the tone of discussion surrounding Mrs. Obama’s potential fashion choices wasn’t solely upbeat and optimistic (“Gee, I wonder which designer she’s going to surprise us with!”), but more of trepidation that Mrs. Obama wouldn’t know exactly what was proper attire for a visit with Queen Elizabeth (“She does know that sleeveless might not be appropriate for meeting the Queen, doesn’t she?”) or other official protocol, like not touching the Queen, who, by the way, touched Mrs. Obama FIRST.

Let me just put it out there: The unspoken assumption was that Mrs. Obama wouldn’t know how to dress or act properly for formal occasions on foreign soil. She’s already been called “trash” by some in the media, and one commentator had the nerve to compare her to the female dog the Obamas plan to get for their daughters.

The unfounded fear was that she might embarrass the nation. Let’s take that apart first.

For those Americans who have not traveled to Europe, here’s a news flash: You can’t embarrass the United States in Europe, or any place else in the world for that matter, any more than the United States has already embarrassed itself. The bar for Europeans’ expectations of American civility and culture is pretty darn low, and it was set that way long before Mrs. Obama met Queen Elizabeth. Mrs. Obama would have had to have worn a pair of Apple Bottom jeans, a metallic tank top with no bra, and some Candies shoes and dropped it like it was hot in Trafalgar Square before she had lowered Europeans’ expectations of Americans when it comes to civility and culture.

Let’s see – wasn’t it our last president, the then-Leader of the Free World, who had the temerity to wink at Queen Elizabeth when she came for a state visit? (Dude, she’s married, happily or unhappily, for over what – 50 years?) And Mickey Rooney all but dry humped Her Majesty during her visit here. I can imagine she couldn’t get back to stalking at Balmoral soon enough. She probably thought the elk in the Scottish highlands were better behaved than the Americans she met on her last visit here.

And no one said a peep about what First Lady Laura Bush wore to meet the Queen. Oh, but she must know how to act and dress properly, right, since she’s a . . . wait, isn’t she a chain smoker who actually killed someone while driving? Right. But she probably knows how to comport herself with heads of state, though.

Then, let’s not forget President George W. Bush’s visit to Brazil, where he openly admitted his ignorance of the fact that Brazil has the largest population of people of African descent outside of Africa. “Did you know that?”, he openly questioned the then-Tutor-in-Chief, Condi Rice, who had to school our President publicly about the racial makeup of Brazil. During a state visit. In public. I don’t know about you, but I was embarrassed. Almost as embarrassed as I was when the first President Bush threw up and passed out at a state dinner in Japan.

Mrs. Obama couldn’t have possibly done worse, even if she tried.

America, get it through your heads: Mrs. Obama isn’t Lil Kim. Or Britney Spears for that matter. She had a proper upbringing, went to elite schools, and probably knows a lot more about protocol and manners than most of the trash, trailer and otherwise, who are worried that she, of all people, might not know how to dress and carry herself. My message is simple: Before you worry about how Mrs. Obama is handling her business, you need to ask yourselves how you’re handling your own. Do your own children have good manners? Do they know how to dress appropriately for different occasions, i.e., t-shirts and/or jeans are not appropriate for church or funerals? Does your husband know to take a hostess gift to a party? Do you know which fork is the salad fork and where the bread plate is? America, before you check Mrs. Obama on her wardrobe and manners, you really need to check yourselves first. Don’t assume that just because she’s black that she doesn’t know protocol and doesn’t have manners.

And don’t act like you weren’t.


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