I hadn't had much time to read the paper or review the news online until this evening. I did, however, pull the much-maligned New Yorker cover (along with the rest of the magazine) out of my mailbox. A quick glance had me chuckling before I chucked the periodical onto my towering pile of unopened mail. (After all, the orthodontist waits for no magazine, not even one as venerable as the New Yorker).
Full disclosure--I love Barry Blitt, who is responsible for this cover. His cover of Ahmadinejad sitting on the can, with a sandaled foot creeping into his stall from the one next to it might be one of my all-time favorites--truly a classic. When I need cheering up, I just pull out that cover and begin to feel better pronto.
Now, as I said, my first response was amusement. Then I opened my newspaper. I must say, initially, I was surprised at the outcry this cover evoked. Although I suppose I should not have been. At the risk of sounding elitist (whoo-hoo, guess Barack and I have something in common!!), it seemed pretty apparent that it was meant to be satire, but I had forgotten how literal much of the U.S. population is. People just didn't get it. I felt superior. For a little while.
Then I began thinking it through a bit more--specifically as regards the Obamas' reactions to the cover. At first I thought--enh, Barack should've just laughed it off, recognizing it for the satire it was--and I still think that may have been the best way to handle it, whether he honestly felt that way or not. BUT then I put myself in his and Michelle's shoes (G-d forbid---luckily, my husband's past pretty much precludes any attempts at running for higher public office. Nothing horrible, just, well, you know, he grew up in the 70s...).
How many of us, after having been repeatedly and wrongly accused of all sorts of heinous things would be able just to laugh it off? I don't know about you, but if I'm falsely accused of something often enough, I tend to get defensive. More defensive than I might be under other circumstances. A one-time comment is easy enough in most cases to dismiss. But when you've been attacked time and again, it becomes harder to do that. Think about it in these terms: Say your spouse has wrongly accused you of something--adultery, forgetting to scoop the dog's poop, leaving the toilet seat up AGAIN, whatever--not once, but many, many times. I suspect you'd start to get a little sensitive, a little defensive, a little prickly, when the subject came up the next time, even if it was in the context of a joke.
Viewed this way, Barack's terse response ("no comment") and the negative response of his camp seem fairly understandable. We could debate all day whether his reaction was the "right" way to handle the situation. But in the end, he--and his camp-- just proved that they are human, with all the feelings and failings that come with it. And that, I think, is forgivable (as long as your finger isn't on the button . . .if you know what I mean).
I'd love to hear (read?) what you think about the cover controversy. Comment below, and I'll ante up a copy of one of Barack's books--either The Audacity of Hope or Dreams from My Father. Your choice. Winner will be selected at random. Which means I'll either draw names out of a hat, or just close my eyes and point at the screen.
Addendum: For those who actually do want to learn the etymology of the word "brouhaha," I found the following on the Online Etymology Dictionary:
- 1890, from Fr. brouhaha (1552), said to have been, in medieval theater, "the cry of the devil disguised as clergy." Perhaps from Heb. barukh habba' "blessed be the one who comes," used on public occasions.