Let’s get past the racism. And, yes, there is mild racism involved. If you don’t know why that might be racist, you can email me and I’ll just stare at your email, shake my head and go back to watching television. It doesn’t really bother me that somebody thought this was an excellent rhetorical visual. It is, in some ways. But, for some, this paints Governor Rick Perry in a brilliant beautiful light. But not for everyone.
Alexandra Petri in her article in the Washington Post approached it this way:
Standing next to an airplane in aviator gear? Cool. Smoking in a stupid hat? Uncool. The only way Barack Obama would look worse would be if he were wearing a fanny-pack, if he were denying an old woman health care, or if someone had drawn one of those fake mustaches on top of him. The only way Rick Perry would look better would be if he were rescuing a baby from a burning building with one hand and shooting eagles from the other, and if Abraham Lincoln were standing in one corner of the picture looking at him with warm admiration.Nobody looks uncool when standing next to an airplane and looking as though he has a handle on what to do when he gets inside it. It’s a plain fact.
Standing next to an airplane, a device created with the sole purpose to murder people, isn’t cool. Standing next to an airplane, with helmet in hand, staring off in the distance, because, in the distance, there are people that need killing, isn’t cool. Joining the military is fine, and God help us we need them. But we need a lot of things that aren’t cool. The atmosphere that holds all the air we breath isn’t “hip”. Forks and knives aren’t “hot” right now. And an Air-force pilot, even though they have a job that is required for us to be safe, isn’t cool. They are anti-cool, actually. They are right up there with Mailmen and trash guys and English Professors.
But Obama? In that picture? Hat on, cig in mouth, cool shirt, leaning against a wall? Alexandra Petri? Let me explain something to you. For most urban youths between the age of 15 to 25, Obama, right there, in that picture, is cooler than anyone else in the Universe. Jet Pilots might get house wives going and guys who have fantasied about bombing third-world countries. But for me and young men like I was, leaning up against a wall with a cigarette in your mouth is the best thing you could ever imagine.
This visual reminds me of the classic rule that every English Teacher tries to remind our students of over and over and over again. Know your audience.