by Ernie McCray
Now that the hullabaloo is over regarding what Obama has or hasn’t accomplished during his first 100 days, I’m just stoked that he’s still maintaining his cool. I can’t help but be impressed by coolness.
Growing up black in Tucson in the 40’s and 50’s, it sometimes seemed that being cool was just about all we could strive for in a world that treated us like bad breath. I don’t think there was any response to something we said or did that was more gratifying than: “That’s cool.”
We tried to walk cool, cocking our heads to the side, letting our arms swing slightly as our shoulders swayed side to side and kind of dragging our back leg in time with the beat.
We tried to talk cool: “Hey, man, what’s happening?” “Nothing to it, baby.” “See you later, alligator, when your hair gets straighter. That’ll be never, so goodby forever.”
We strove for the very essence of cool, looking down our shades with a body attitude that said: “Better not tell me I ain’t cool.”
I feel a little of all that when Obama gathers himself up to his full height and commences to walk up to the podium to utter one of his “You see, this is how it’s going to be, with all ya’ll helping me” kind of statements. I see him trying to lead the country out of a black hole filled with unrelenting crises of every stripe – being as cool as he can be.
I appreciate how he handles the tough questions regarding the troubles of the world. Keeping with the concept of cool he, figuratively, looks like he’s side stepping and stiff arming his harshest critics and driving for more yardage like the character on the Heisman Trophy in all his coolness.
When he trips up he pretty much says: “I know. My bad. That wasn’t cool.” But it is cool to acknowledge one’s mistakes and then set out to correct them – like I’m hoping he will eventually do regarding sending more and more of our guys into Afghanistan to chase down al-qaeda and the Taliban. Hey, we do caves about as well as we did jungles in Vietnam – it’s not our cup of tea, when it comes to warfare.
And, besides, speaking of tea, it would do well for Obama to pick the mind of one Greg Mortenson who wrote the book: Three Cups of Tea, One Man’s Mission to Fight Terrorism and build Nations…One School at a Time. The book is based on an old muslim proverb that says: “It takes three cups of tea over many months to create lasting relationships.” Cool concept, huh?
During the first cup, you are strangers; with the second cup, you become friends; and by the third cup, you are regarded as family. Mortenson, as of 2005, had built 53 schools, especially for girls, in Pakistan and Afghanistan (where girls are not highly regarded), each with the help of local communities and with a curriculum approved by the government. How cool is that?
Anyway, there’s plenty of food for thought in Greg Mortenson’s mind that Obama could learn from. And nothing would be cooler than that.
But what’s supercool is Obama is, on the whole, trying to steer the world into becoming one big family. One step at a time.
Tricksters like Karl Rove and Dick Cheney and Newt Gingrich like to jive talk about how Obama is being soft for repudiating the torture of enemy combatants or shaking hands with Hugo Chavez, the flambuoyant president of Venezuela, or reaching out to Cuba and Iran.
Trouble is they don’t understand cool. People, like Obama, who have it together don’t think it’s cool to make somebody think they’re drowning; they just say: “Hey, we’ve got all day.” You’ve got to be sharp to be truly cool so just because Obama offers a hand of fellowhip or a seat at the table to a suspicious man or a repressive regime doesn’t mean he’s going for any okey doke.
In his own way Obama, after his first hundred days, is looking our “enemies” in the eye and offering them three cups of tea. And it’s so refreshing that he’s just as enthusiastic about creating a better world now as he has always been. He’s still cool after all these days. And that makes us, as a nation, much better in a number of ways
because we have not been very cool.