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December 27, 2010

Bag’s Best of 2010 – “My Mom Doesn’t Have any Papers, America”

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Watching the striking exchange  this week between a second grader and the First Lady, I’m interested in how we actually perceive this girl-without-a-name.

By drawing unavoidable focus to the fact her Mother is undocumented, this young girl does something striking; she forces us, at least for an instant, to look at her and see her.

A second later, however — demonstrated by how the First Lady deflects the bombshell-of-a statement by converting a specific situation to a general one, creating an abstract connection between these second graders and the U.S. Congress — we’re able to slip back into that customary perceptual mode in which we see-her-but-we-don’t-see-her, which is where one habitually resides, on a daily basis, in encountering any number of real live undocumented Latinos.

YouTube Video.

  • pragmatic realist

    I am wondering if the First Lady now has an obligation to report this violation of the law to the proper authorities, so mother and child can be deported.

  • Wayne Dickson

    You don’t get to where the First Lady is without knowing how to play politics. Her manipulating of the child’s question was hardly surprising. She knows how to dance.

    She bought some time. But now both she and her husband’s administration must take a position. Are they with those like the second-grader? Or are they with the inside-the-beltway, politically-calculating vote traders?

    How about this: How about leading from in front? How about focusing on setting a positive example and inspiring rather than about waiting to see which way the wind is blowing and then jumping in to twist some arms? (Yeah. Mixed metaphor. Sorry.)

  • John Powers

    A Ugandan friend a while back sent me a link to a story about Michelle Obama’s engaging with the children of White House staff where in answer to one of the children’s questions said that Malia is very concerned about tigers and endangered species. “We have the tiger talk at least once a week.” My friend couldn’t quite say why but told me that I had know idea how much such appearances mean to him and folks outside the USA. I think I get it though, Michelle puts herself into situations where the real concerns of people can be expressed. She uses her bully pulpit to remind us all not to get too full of ourselves.

  • Reverend Money

    The Obama’s are great at articulating the concerns of us commoners. And they are even better at forgetting them as they walk off the stage. This little girl means no more to the Obama’s than the little Iraqi and Afghanistan children they kill every day.

    All show and no go!

    I, for one, will not be fooled again.

  • Yoshi Matrix

    As much of a pain in the ass as it is, then because of the parents poor judgment as to how to come to the USA, she will have to go back with her Mother, and be The inspiration and strength that is needed to have her Mom come back and begin it the legal way, the right way.

    • g

      Oh, really? And just how do you imagine that works?

      The mother gets deported with her daughter. How long do you suppose it will take, and how much money, before the mom is allowed to come in with a legal working permit? How old do you suppose the daughter will be at that point?

      Your suggestion that she “come back and begin the legal way” is a fatuous and ignorant platitude that has no idea of the reality of how difficult it is for someone to come in legally.

      It probably feels good for you to say that, but you don’t really know what you’re talking about.

    • Anne

      I believe no human being is illegal.

      My mother lived in Mexico a lawless place of corruption. A place where there are no opportunities for education or advancement. A Place where you did not know what was going to happen to you the next day and drug cartels roamed. My father was murdered and no one was sent to prison for it. Can you imagine how that feels?

      My mother had two choices, stay there with her children in fear of what would become of her family or risk it all cross the border illegally in order to provide her children and become part of the working class.

      She did not have the education to even fill out a form let alone apply to be a legal citizen. Its not her fault her country did not provide her a proper education.

      I respect my mothers decision and would have done the same. I now am attending college an opportunity I would never have had if my mother choose to stay. We probably would have been dead by now. My mother gave me the opportunity to flourish into the educated person I am. I will continue to fight for illegal immigrants. Living in America I can conclude nothing is impossible.

  • DennisQ

    In this case, Michelle Obama’s “correct” answer was the wrong answer. You have to be pretty hard-hearted not to sympathize with that little girl. It wouldn’t have hurt Michelle to have been a Mommy rather than the First Lady in that situation. If that’s all you’re going to do, why even bother to set up an encounter like this?

    Americans don’t seem to have any gratitude anymore. Michelle Obama’s answer was like a dog growling over a bone. Then I remembered that Obama made a joke of sending predator drones after boys who put the moves on Sasha and Malia. There was a similar growl in that remark, and it was widely denounced as inappropriate.

    Obama ran on a pledge of compassionate government. Now I’m scratching my head – what is the change he promised? Have Americans gotten so skinflinty and mean-spirited that we don’t know the meaning of generosity anymore. I am really disappointed in Michelle Obama. The one person who could get away with sympathizing with that little girl has chosen not to.

  • Malika

    I sort of agree with those who note the coldness of Obama’s response. It was so right and politically adept. Maybe it was the only thing she could say, but still, it reeked of those quasi-admirable qualities and was devoid of Mommy scent. Good, I guess, that she avoided a maelstrom with GOP and the Rust Belt, but I have to wonder if it sent a chill down the spine of many, many people.

    • Malika

      By the way, my experience with children tells me they only say this kind of thing when it weighs heavily on their minds…

    • Reverend Money

      Barack Obama, with the support of his wife, kills people every day. He kills soldiers, and terrorists, and women and children. Of course there is a coldness to Ms Obama’s response. If she was to acknowledge the humanity of that little girl she would have to acknowledge the humanity fo all those her husband is killing.

      And Obama is in such denial as to the flying body parts that result from the Drone strikes he orders that he can actually joke about using drones.

      Can we progressives at last admit that the new boss is much like the last boss? Or must we wait until Obama has his torture scandal?

  • Michael Shaw

    Anne, thanks so much for sharing your experience. Best of luck.

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