Thursday, May 06, 2010

Home boy

I've never been “home”

President Obama poked some gentle fun at several targets during the White House Correspondents Association dinner last week. He tweaked Biden for his use of profanity and Jay Leno for his recent ratings. And he tossed a barb in the direction of the birthers, the wacky people who refuse to accept the evidence of Obama's birth in Hawaii:
It's been quite a year since I've spoken here last—lots of ups, lots of downs—except for my approval ratings, which have just gone down. But that's politics. It doesn’t bother me. Besides I happen to know that my approval ratings are still very high in the country of my birth.
The fringe element that populates the Free Republic website seized on the president's comment:
gooleyman: Am I the only one to notice that Obama admitted on this video that he was not born in the United States.

He actually admits he wasn’t born in the United States.
Some folks can't quite grasp the concept of a mocking comedy routine—even when they're the butt of it (or perhaps especially when they're the butt of it). These crazies were also excited when Michelle Obama spoke in August 2008 before the a conference of LGBT delegates at the Democratic convention (“The World as It Should Be”):
Barack has led by example: When we took our trip to Africa and visited his home country in Kenya, we took a public HIV test for the very point of showing the folks in Kenya that there is nothing to be embarrassed about in getting tested.
Oh, my God! She said her husband's “home country” is Kenya! Oh, no!

I hope that the president's health care reform package includes increased coverage for psychiatric treatment. The birthers need help from competent brain-care specialists. The concept of “home country” is neither obscure nor difficult to understand—and it is not identical to “birth country.” I have reason to know.

The following paragraphs are a short excerpt from a novel I wrote last summer (still unpublished as of this writing, but I'm working on it). The manuscript recounts the travails of a contentious Portuguese immigrant family living in central California. (By a strange coincidence, I grew up in a contentious Portuguese immigrant family in central California. Weird!) This particular episode includes the following exchange between two pre-teen cousins:
Tia Odette told me that my avô came to this country when he was still single. He was engaged to a girl back home.”

“In the Old Country. The Azores.”

“Yeah, back home,” said Ferdinando.

Paul thought it was interesting how they had picked up the expression “back home” to refer to a place that neither of them had ever seen. They had learned the phrase from their grandparents and it was a natural part of their language.
It's true. All my life I heard family members referring to the Azores as “back home.” I've said it myself.

But I've never been there.

People who misunderstand this expression out of ignorance or idiocy are probably beyond help. The lights are on, but no one is home.


Anonymous said...

Also worth pointing out: I read his "still popular in the country of my birth" as literally meaning "still popular in the US"---his ratings have been falling consistently, but he started with such high ratings, his ratings are still pretty good, especially for a midterm President in a recession.

Plus, it's a comedy routine, but since none of these people have a sense of humor, that might not mean much to them.

Anonymous said...


aren't you curious to visit?

Zeno said...

Yes, jd, I am curious. Perhaps one of these days I'll tag along with my brother, who has visited the islands a couple of times. However, I do not enjoy traveling and do not currently hold a passport. (I don't mind being places, but I really dislike getting there.)

João said...

What are you waiting for? Get on a plane. NOW! You won't regret it, it's one of the most beautiful places in the world. Really!

RBH said...

The lights are on, but no one is home.

It's worse than that--the lights are on but dimming, and no one is home. :)