11 July 2008

"Mike Check, One Two One Two"

My buddy called me Tuesday night. "Hey man-"

I cut him off. "You calling me about that damn Jessie Jackson, ain't you?"

"Did you see this negro?"

Naw, but I've been reading about it on the internet. Just when you think this election can't
get any crazier-"

"So you didn't see it?" my buddy asked me, sounding as if he was unable to comprehend
why my eyes weren't glued to my TV.


"You've GOT to see his face."

"Didn't I tell you this was going to get wild?"

"I don't think we we've really seen crazy yet. Dude, these are BLACK FOLKS doing this!
Can you imagine what'll happen once the white folks chime in?"

"Yeah," I said, "it's going to be a long year."

The first thing most of us who are not public speakers do when we come across a live microphone is talk into it. It is exciting - for those of us who do not speak to crowds
from stages, who do not wear clip-on microphones while being interviewed, who are not used to press conferences, where dozens of microphones are stuck at us all at once - to hear the sound of our amplified voice, even if it is being projected into an empty auditorium.

Some of us blow on them.

Some of us say "testing, one two three testing" if we are older, or "mic check one two one two" if we are younger.

Sooner or later, almost all of us come to realize, even if there are only a few people around, that talking in front of a crowd is harder than it looks.

But for the verbally agile microphone fiends who earn their daily bread speaking into them, they are as familiar as your cell phone is to you.

Jessie Jackson has been speaking into microphones his whole life. Maybe he was tired. Maybe he THOUGHT the mic was off, as he says. Or maybe someone was out to play a trick on him, as those in the media are wont to do.

Despite the pinstriped suits, the silk ties, the carefully barbered hair, and the manicured hands, Jackson has always had a certain country boy coarseness about him, a rough and ready air that has contributed to his distinctive persona.

It was the set of the jaw muscles in Jessie Jackson's face as he made the now famous gesture of a farm boy gelding a hog that had me laughing out loud as I watched the Youtube clip. The words he said were almost inconsequential when it got to the sudden upward wrenching motion that he made with his right arm, right there on camera for all the world to see.

Whatever the reason, the raw, naked thought that probably ran through his head and sprung from his lips almost simultaneously - "I'm going to cut his nuts off" will live on forever in sound bite land, alongside "Hymietown" and the photo of him embracing Momar Qaddafi.

The thing that bothers me the most about this is the glee with which the mainstream political pundits have seized upon this off-camera moment, boiling this down to the same old binary analysis – “Obama good, Jackson bad,” as if the only people worthy of supporting Obama have to be seen wearing their halos of devotion at all times.

If that’s the case, Obama’s surrogates can “renounce and reject” me right now, because I have moments, as I am sure all of you do, when I am VERY unhappy with something he’s said or something he’s done. The FISA crowd, as aggravating as they have been, are SUPPOSED to criticize Obama when they feel they have been wronged by a stance he takes. I myself am starting to get riled by the weekly apologies Obama seems to offer to some maligned group or cause.

The look on Jackson’s face at the press conference he held to express regret about his actions was as telling as the violent thrust of his shoulder was on the FOX videotape. He looked as if he could see his own future in this fall's campaign, his powerful voice of advocacy muted by his own carelessness, by his own all-too-human envy.

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