This week, Michele Obama put her arm around the Queen of England, and the Emily Posts among us gasped. The media quickly drew our attention to The First Lady’s alleged faux pas, and then just as quickly dismissed the cultural transgression as much ado about nothing. The First Lady’s public display of affection, the press reported, charmed the Queen, and prompted the Monarch to reciprocate. The incident emerged an unprecedented symbol of a new political mood, a cultural camaraderie. Michele Obama was lauded as a “woman of substance and morality, genuine care and compassion.”
Call me an old-fashioned stick-in-the-mud, but I don’t see it that way.
I applaud the Obama’s platform of hope and change, but I find it a bit disconcerting when the President visits the “guys” in the White House press room in his shirt sleeves, and the First Lady slips her arm around the Queen as though the Monarch is just another little old lady from Britain. There’s a little something called tradition, a little something called respect, both of which are important to some people. When revered, tradition and respect can reveal genuine appreciation for a stranger or a foreign culture. In meeting the Queen of England, countless dignitaries have upheld long-standing protocol, ever conscious that their actions would be scrutinized here and abroad. The fact that Michele Obama didn’t follow protocol begs the question: was her faux pas a result of understandable nervousness? Or well-dressed arrogance?
As a representative of our country, Michele Obama has a responsibility to uphold the values and traditions of other nations. The dignity of the Queen’s office, for example, demands it, as does the dignity of Mrs. Obama’s own “office.” The fact that Mrs. Obama obviously did not comprehend the importance of respect and tradition if her true faux pas. The Obamas’ efforts to be one of the “regular folk” missed the mark this week. Yes, I guess “regular folk” might walk around the White House in their shirt sleeves, but “regular folk” wouldn’t touch the Queen. Despite reportedly being a “woman of substance and morality, genuine care and compassion,” Michele Obama goofed.
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Much ado about nothing? Maybe. Indeed, this week there are far more pressing and tragic events to focus upon than a silly social gaffe. But sometimes actions speak louder than words. That’s another old-fashioned, stick-in-the-mud attitude I have. I know that if I had been in The First Lady’s shoes, I would not have slipped my arm around the Queen of England. I would have looked to my predecessors for guidance, deferred to the Queen, thanked the good Lord for the privilege of representing a great nation, and the honor of meeting another, and prayed that I didn’t screw up.
The way Michele Obama did.