Commentary Magazine


Civility Watch: Michele Obama Invites Bush Burner to White House Reading

Perhaps it is futile to keep noting the instances of liberal hypocrisy about civility in public discourse but when the double standard is enunciated by the White House, perhaps even the most jaded observers need to take notice. The Daily Caller reports today that among those invited to recite at First Lady Michelle Obama’s poetry evening at the White House on Wednesday is Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr., who is better known by his stage name “Common.”

Although he earns his keep as an emcee and rapper, Common is also, we are instructed, a successful Chicago poet—or, at least, a successful participant in poetry slams, which is not quite the same thing—among whose works is something called “A Letter to the Law” which can be seen recited by the author at YouTube via the Daily Caller. The most memorable passages of this rap rhapsody include the following lines about attacking the police:

Them boys chat-chat on how him pop gun
I got the black strap to make the cops run
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
and when we roll together
we be rocking them to sleep

And then this gem about the man who preceded Mrs. Obama’s husband’s in the White House:

With that happening, why they messing with Saddam?
Burn a Bush cos’ for peace he no push no button
Killing over oil and grease

We await the shocked cries of outrage about the First Lady and the White House’s hosting the authors of such uncivil speech, which was, were told often enough during the last two years, but especially after the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, rhetoric that leads inevitably to violence. Just imagine for a moment if a Republican gathering hosted, say, a white militia poet who had waxed lyrical about the need to resist government power or had fantasized about “burning” Obama. The mind reels.

The Daily Caller also notes, with no small degree of irony, that Mrs. Obama’s predecessor Laura Bush attempted to stage a poetry evening in which contemporary poets would read the works of Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, and Langston Hughes. But that evening never came off because of the threatened protests from poets for whom left-wing politics are more important to them than poetry. As far as the left is concerned, civility (and the celebration of American poetry) remain a one-way street.

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