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A response to “Michelle’s 46th Birthday Organic Lamb and Lobster Bash.”

On January 18 of this year, my friend OCNaturalDoc posted a blog entitled “Michelle’s 46th Birthday Organic Lamb and Lobster Bash.” In it she says, “…something isn't right when someone who promised so much to so many, and has since spent so much on himself and his family, and is preparing to sell so many of us down the river with socialized health care and the extinction of caring for our country's aging population.” She also reports that “The president rented a private room (of course) at Restaurant Nora for four hours and had a special lobster and lamb meal prepared. The lobster dish on the regular menu is $35 --- but you know the costs were significantly higher as Chef Benjamin Lambert prepared a special off-the-menu lamb dish for the birthday girl, as well as seared Maine lobster and saffron risotto, complemented by organic wine, a 2008 Spottswoode Suauvignon Blanc.”

Reading this blog, I had to wonder what the subtext of this polemic could be. Should the president have surprised the patrons at a local Denny’s? Is the First Lady supposed to celebrate her birthday by slinking into the White House kitchen and blowing the candle on a cupcake? OCNaturalDoc made a point of listing the guest list (which she called the “inner circle”), many of which came “from their circle of Chicago friends…” Where are the guests supposed to come from? Should the Obama's drag random people off the street? Who would OCNaturalDoc choose to invite to her birthday party if she were in Michelle Obama’s position? Al Sharpton and Trent Lott?

Perhaps the burr under OCNaturalDoc’s saddle came from the organic lamb and lobster menu items. Although surrounded by a political sea of blue, in the little red island that is Orange County, I’m sure such fair is commonplace. Isn’t organic food supposed to be a healthier and better choice than food grown with the input of chemicals? Would that be a logical choice? Or is the thought of a black family dining on such food too much of a disconnect from the expectations of the good people in the “OC?” Are they eating "above their station?' I wonder if it would shock the good people of the OC to know that I, too, have dined on fine lobster and lamb, even though I’m decidedly middle class. Perhaps OCNaturalDocC would be happier if the president and first lady had chosen a menu of fried chicken, ham hocks, collard greens, fatback and chitterlings—a menu more in line with the historical options afforded people of color. Nothing wrong with those foods, but we are no longer limited to whatever the white folks won’t eat. Surprise! WTF.

Similar complaints were heard when president Obama took his wife on a date to New York City, even though that was something that the Obama’s could well afford to do before winning the presidency. It is true that extra security comes with the office, as does explicit ways of traveling, but is that supposed to mean that the couple can’t have a date? Has America forgotten how a couple in love in the White House behaves? I guess it is not enough that this young family give up their privacy, save the financial markets (including many of those deep pockets in the OC), intervene to save thousands of jobs at imminent risk in the auto industry, inspire families and children to consider healthy eating and living, or model for the rest of us what a loving, strong and stable nuclear family looks like. They now have to live down to the expectations of people from an area where a few pieces of art from the inside of one home in the OC could have paid for the entire cost of the evening. Are people in the OC curbing their extravagant spending during such “rough economic times,” or have they sold a few properties and perhaps now have four cars instead of seven, and are going on with business as usual?

I know many people this hard to believe, but there has been a thriving and growing class of black people that have financial parity with white people and (a shock, I know) can afford the very same foods, restaurants and entertainment as their white counterparts. People of color don’t have to slink off to eat in the kitchen anymore and yes, all kinds of people can walk through the front door and even reserve a private room, if they choose to do so. The president is no different. Nor is Barack Obama afforded any more security or protection than any other president of this country would have a right to expect. After JFK, the country decided that the protection of the president should be a higher priority than the previous standard operating procedure. Is there something about this particular president that makes some people so uncomfortable about expenditures that were presumed to be necessary for previous presidents? Hmm…I wonder what that could be?

The Obama family, like so many others, worked hard for what they have earned, and deserve to enjoy their life no less than anyone else. If OCNaturalDoc or anyone else in Orange County would like to find some extra money for Haiti, or even the homeless and marginalized Native tribes in their own state, I might suggest starting with the extravagant spending in their own communities. Sell the sailboats and the yachts. Lose the Beamers, Benzes, and Lamborghinis. Get rid of the Ferrari, and the Bentley. I hear GM and Ford are making some reasonable cars these days.

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Comment by caseyjo on January 30, 2010 at 7:08pm
I took down my last post at OC's request. I do owe her a apology, but my feelings remain the same..In general it is screwy to purposely post things you know will push peoples buttons, then get upset when they say things you don't like.
Comment by Vernon Windsor on January 28, 2010 at 11:58am
A few points of clarification...

subtext |ˈsəbˌtekst|
noun
an underlying and often distinct theme in a piece of writing or conversation.

By definition, all writing expressing opinion has a subtext. A writer may intend one thing, the reader may receive quite another. I don't believe my particular response to the original post was at all an isolated or unique one.

Agreeing to share your husband and your family with the rest of the nation is no small sacrifice. I would not begrudge Michelle Obama her birthday dinner however extravagant it was (not very, if I can afford the same food).

You claim you don't begrudge anyone their birthday celebrations, but wasn't that the entire reason for your post? Indeed, you do begrudge Michelle Obama's birthday celebration, and in writing, you let us all know.

I am not a professional writer.

I cannot find anyplace in my post where I suggest you are either a Republican or a racist. To speak about matters of race is not tantamount to flinging an accusation of racism. This is an important distinction. However, just as you read with the context of your experience, so does everyone else. I want to know why is it the Obama's must wear hair-shirts in solidarity with the suffering masses while George W. Bush and Dick Cheney can forgo such attire opting instead for black tie couture without comment? What is it about this president that makes you feel entitled to pass judgement on his social and private life?

My problem is not with where you live, but rather your double standard. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. My point is that you are writing (complaining, really) about Michelle Obama's birthday party and yet seem blithely unaware of and mysteriously silent on the extraordinary extravagance surrounding you every day. To my way of thinking the Obama's have already made a sacrifice.

Being black is no more a guarantee of inoculation against being hateful of your own race and culture or someone else's than being white or belonging to any other group. Nor does having black friends or even black children indicate a person is not prejudiced or even racist. Being black does not insure you are compassionate or sensitive, or intelligent, or that you must live in South Central LA. Talking about Orange County does not mean I'm only speaking of white people.

When I do speak of white people or black people, however, that is what I mean. No group is monolithic. That said, this nation has a very specific history which still affects our national discourse to this day. It is one that prescribes public judgment between racial groups as flowing in one direction only. Our language has evolved to avoid the overt crudeness of the 30's and 40's (although some people seem determined to keep it alive), but in many cases, the same sentiments can be coded and decoded just as easily. If you drop your post into this context, you can hardly be surprised when people apply your words over that context. You may claim it doesn't matter, but you'd be lying to yourself.

You are, of course, free to write anything you want, but I am free to comment or respond, if I choose to do so.
Comment by ZenDog on January 28, 2010 at 5:44am
Jeez Orian, I was brought up in a trailer . . . guess that makes me trailer trash . . . white trailer trash . . .

And I happen to think that "OC" is just another racist, classist, misinformed misanthrop; and above all

a nitwit . . .
Comment by Whiny Old Bastard on January 27, 2010 at 9:04pm
"But that IS exactly the point. From your insulated walls you couldn't begin to see, much less feel the pain of those less privileged. But I agree on one thing. Every revolution the world has ever known has been predicated on the distance between those who have (Orange County) and those who have not (those in the less privileged vicinities). The greater the distance, the greater the likelihood of a revolution. Better hire an extra guard at the gated community. It's all coming down one day. The pedicure and hair coloring will be off the menu."
I'm a redneck construction worker living in a trailer in rural Alabama and I agree with OC.
What now?
Comment by Whiny Old Bastard on January 27, 2010 at 8:54pm
"The Obama family, like so many others, worked hard for what they have earned, and deserve to enjoy their life no less than anyone else. If OCNaturalDoc or anyone else in Orange County would like to find some extra money for Haiti, or even the homeless and marginalized Native tribes in their own state, I might suggest starting with the extravagant spending in their own communities. Sell the sailboats and the yachts. Lose the Beamers, Benzes, and Lamborghinis. Get rid of the Ferrari, and the Bentley. I hear GM and Ford are making some reasonable cars these days."
What a crock of shit.
Freakin pseudo intellectual bulllshit.
Comment by caseyjo on January 27, 2010 at 8:03pm
OC said "i'm also looking for concerned people to help with an organic food growing initiative in conjunction with native american nations. wanna help?"

Just curious...What kind of help do you need?
Comment by OCNaturalDoc on January 27, 2010 at 3:44pm
vernon,
there's no subtext here, and no need to read into anything more into what i wrote. the party details are all well documented facts, and we are facing the most challenging economic times in US history.

people have big concerns regarding all the bail outs and government spending in the past year. extravagant parties and big ticket vacations don't help maintain obama's public opinion. i personally don't suggest michelle's birthday party was over-the-top. i've had extravagant parties , but not recently, and i'm not the president of a country in the midst of financial chaos. this was another very public example of extravagant spending that made a big slice of the population feel badly....especially when everyone -- whether you voted for him or not -- wanted to believe in him. instead, the government owns more businesses....the ones they "bailed out".

the obama's know they can't so much as sneeze without a zillion cameras capturing their images. to that end, many find it offensive for him to spend extravagantly when so many others are suffering without ANY kind of dinner. or home. or job. or even hope. it's a matter of taste....so to speak.

did you not read the part of my blog you referenced/quoted where i don't begrudge anyone their birthday celebrations? i also gave kudos to the choice of organic fare and the reasonably priced wine selection. the 'inner circle' reference was creative expression....suffice it to say that everyone's birthdays include their 'inner circle'. you are a professional writer, so i'm surprised you even brought that up.

i'm also surprised that you intimate that i'm republican (i'm not) and racist (clearly not) -- and ps, i enjoy collard greens and black eyed peas....organic, of course.

you may also be surprised to know that there more black folks living in prestigious south orange county than you'd think...sure, they're movie stars and pro-athletes, but it seems part of you're problem with where i live seems to be one of color -- or lack thereof. and it's not. so relax. orange county also has a very large asian and hispanic population....so you see, it's not all about the white folks. if you can afford to live here and have something positive to contribute to the community, c'mon down! i don't care what color you are. i was raised 'colorblind'. just ask my best and most long-time friend in the world --- since summer bible school when we were 8 years old. she's back in nj, and we talk all the time.

without question, orange county, california is life in the lap of luxury. and to your point, a single painting from a neighbors wall or entryway sculpture would have easily covered the cost of michelle's party...as well as birthday parties for the rest of the obama family. that's not the point.

you mentioned that the obama's worked hard for what they have earned...so have a lot of people --- and many of them have lost it all. there has been alot of downsizing here. i had to give up my DB-9 for a lexus. kidding.

there are also many volunteer organizations and initiatives in orange county -- i am an organizer of one of them. i'm close to these growing concerns -- my eyes are open to see many sides of this equation...the haves, the have-nots, the never-have-hads, and the had-everything-and-lost-it-alls. orange county has it all here now....the grandest grand to those sleeping down on coast hwy.

i'm also looking for concerned people to help with an organic food growing initiative in conjunction with native american nations. wanna help?

extreme juxtapositions here, and it's my concern that it's a sign of things to come....the extinction of the middle class....downsized to the 'haves' and 'have-nots'.
Comment by Quinn on January 27, 2010 at 3:37pm
Thank you Vernon.
I saw her blog post and deleted my reply as it was written in anger. Every time I went back to it, I was angry all over again...
I try to be objective, but I cannot understand her way of thinking.
I believe Paul is right...she does have an agenda. He thinks it's political, I'm not so sure??

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