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.