ATTENTION CONSERVATION NOTICE: Umbrellas are necessary in the rain.
Neither you nor I have the time for me to go linking to various outraged posts or the various and sundry counter-outraged oh-this-is-all-Republican-contrived-aren’t-those-wingnuts-awful scandal links.
However, I do have to thank this particular tempest-in-a-teapot for digging up some amusing-to-me pictures of other presidents having umbrellas held for them and not, like my favorite of President Bush (senior) under a very girly beach umbrella. I’m not convinced this writer is correct, btw. Those don’t look like Marine uniforms to me; I’m thinking they’re German. Anybody know? Anyhoodily, one reason I like this photo: it rather illustrates my favorite thing about this particular president: good sense. For we all know that beach umbrellas are waaaaay superior to the tiny little rain umbrellas that keep your head dry but let your shoulders and backpack get all wet. (Not that I suspect he picked this umbrella, but a less sensible man might have objected to its whimsical appearance for the POTUS rather than simply, doing his job under a rather silly brellie.)
And then there’s this one of a bemused G.W. Bush and an recalcitrant umbrella. We’ve all been there, dude.
The universe of this controversy appears to be people for whom Mah-reens represent the big, important, and masculine–all terms for high status tasks…instead of the notion of service, which is seen as minor and demeaning.
We should probably just acknowledge straight up that one reason why some people got upset over the photo is that they had a gut reaction to a white man doing something they view as servile for a black man, and that’s not the right ordering of the universe.
The nice thing about all the various photos with presidents and their umbrella-holding marines and butlers and friends should be: that it is a polite thing to do to hold an umbrella for a person who has his hands full, and that a great deal of service, much of it very honorable, never gets you a medal and is, in fact, simply taking out the trash, digging latrines, and holding bumbershoots for visiting panjandrums. One does what one does because it simply needs to get done; there is honor in the small. Really.
It’s rather indicative of our political discussions that many people are willing to take a stand for or against the umbrella, but have no interest whatsoever in what the actual event involving the President (and the President of another country!) was about. Announcing a new treaty? A new policy? No, no, THAT’S irrelevant. Tell me about the accessories they somebody hold for them for a bit! (Presidents Obama and Erdogan were issuing a joint statement regarding Syria. Remember Syria?
This is not to say how we treat the people around us, like the President and the Marines, does not matter. It’s just not worth that pother that has gone into this question, nor should it eclipse discussing Syria. I was most annoyed by President Clinton’s behavior of asking state officials to ferry women to and fro, because it’s both demeaning and icky, even if I didn’t think we needed to be impeaching anybody. (i.e. you can still do your job even if you are an ass.) Yes, the staffers here should have thought through the weather better, but if you can’t imagine getting caught short on the weather, you’ve never lived in DC, where the weather pretty much sucks all the time, and defies prediction, despite it being a lovely city in many other ways.
The Marines, to me, added grace and dignity to the event, as they do at so many other events; they provided comfort and hospitality to a visiting dignitary. Those things matter, too, right along with whether our Marines are treated with the proper respect.
Terminal Lance has my favorite response to date:
As well, the day I give a shit about a boot Corporal holding an umbrella is the day I’ve forgotten what the Marine Corps is. Honestly, holding an umbrella for the President is probably the least demeaning thing I could imagine doing as a Marine, as opposed to the other bullshit I had to do every day. No one would think twice about asking a boot to police call cigarette butts across the entire base at 5am, but the minute this boot has to hold an umbrella for the Commander in Chief, people get upset.
He’s the President, he rates an umbrella.
Get over it.
Joseph decided to take his elderly dog, Zeus, for one last adventure. They are bicycling around Australia together, Joseph on the pedals, Zeus in sidecar. You can follow their adventures on Joseph’s Flickr.
Trust me, you want to follow our new blog, largely because of Martin. These are meant to be short reviews to point you to books of sholarly and policy relevance. I do a short review of Julia Annas’ excellent Introduction to Plato’s Republic.
As regular readers of this page know, I’m not a great fan of the way that USC has responded to security problems. We have over-reacted in a top-down manner that has unnecessarily changed the peace and quiet that should dominate a college campus. USC has always been a very open campus, and our new fences and gates and security panjandrums are a knee-jerk reaction. Maybe some of these measures make sense, but changing the physical and social shape of any community, let alone a creative, scholarly community, takes time. Yes, USC is a private university, and it’s private property, and they can do what they want. But too much of the lockdown, rules-oriented nonsense can also discourage students, families, visitors, the elite faculty we hope to attract and retain, and donors. We’ll see.
In any case, NPR and the LA Times picked up the story about USC DPS and the LAPD’s differential treatment of a loud party of white kids versus a party of black kids. Neon Tommy, our on-campus news source, published the names and videos of some of the students involved, whose lawyers have subsequently warned them not to talk to the press. Since I empathize with the students, I don’t link to the video stories, but I’ve watched the videos, and the truth is: these are students USC can be really proud of.
Most of the litigation, I assume, is going to be directed at the LAPD. Plenty of folks are all over arguing that, before taking a position, we should “wait and see and avoid she said, he said.” In the case of USC here, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that a group of OUR students felt targeted and disrespected. We should signal that we support them in their pursuit of justice with the LAPD.
And we should get our own campus police force. Right now we have hired security–armed security–that calls in the LAPD for instances where arrests may need to be made.
I say this as a USC professor and LA City property tax payer: I don’t want the LAPD responding to college parties. They have other stuff to do on Saturday nights in LA. They have a proven record of brutality towards black residents. I know they’ve enacted extensive reforms. But just don’t even. It takes a long time to fix a record like this, if you ever really do.
Campuses are tricky places to police, and campus police make plenty of mistakes, as the UC Davis fiasco demonstrates. But our current approach is not working.