Michelle Obama and Downton Abbey

Michelle ObamaI just watched the third season of Downton Abbey. It is rather good, and I will have more to say about it from an entertainment angle. But first, there is a political matter that I need to get off my chest.

I imagine Michelle Obama watching Downton Abbey and feeling very superior that she would never destroy someone’s entire life for being gay or for having once been a prostitute. Meanwhile, her husband continues to allow cannabis users to have their entire lives destroyed by being labeled felons. This is the President of the United States who was paid millions of dollars to publicly admit that he repeatedly violated federal and state law by using cannabis and cocaine.

(I know: I have been very hard on the president recently. But I have come to believe that we are allowing the conservatives to win when we don’t hold liberals accountable. Take for example the Sequester. By defending Obama’s “balanced” approach, we yield all the liberal ground. Suddenly, there is no fight between left and right; there is a fight between center and right. And this only allows the conservatives to move the debate ever further to the right. We have reached a point now where Obama’s “balanced” approach—the supposed liberal position—is more conservative than anything supported by Eisenhower, Nixon, or Ford.)

This is the exasperating thing about Downton Abbey. It allows people of today to look down on people of a hundred years ago. Yet people today have prejudices that are every bit as pernicious; they simply have different prejudices.

I assure you of this: in 100 years, people will look back on us with horror that we threw junkies into jail for decades (when we didn’t just let them die from dirty needles and tainted drugs). And they will look very far down on a president and first lady who watched millions of young people’s lives destroyed while they patted themselves on the back for their liberal attitudes. Oh my! How very forward thinking the president was in coming out in favor of marriage equality in 2012! What cutting edge liberal thinking! Please. Let’s be clear: if it were 1952, Obama would (Regrettably, mind you!) be in favor of castrating Alan Turing.

Watching Downton Abbey breaks my heart for the society we live in today. But I fear my reaction is rare. Most people watch it and think, “How far we’ve come!” Unfortunately, that’s just not true. At the time portrayed when the series started, there was relatively little stigma and almost no law regarding drug use. So in some ways we have moved forward but in others we have moved backwards. All that has changed is who we oppress in the name of “community standards.” We have swapped homosexuals for drug users. We haven’t done a damned thing for prostitutes. And of course the poor matter as little as ever.

I would like to to think that watching Downton Abbey has made Michelle Obama bug her husband to stand up for liberal values and make a stand against the oppression of the weak. But I suspect it just makes her feel good that her husband is finally doing something about a terrible social injustice in England 100 years ago.

But maybe I’m looking at this all wrong. At least Obama isn’t dropping bombs on the poor. At least not in this country. At least not yet.


As regular reads know: I am entirely behind the gay rights movement. What’s more: I know its history and I know that the LGBT community is oppressed to this day. But today in the United States, the oppression of drug users and prostitutes (often the very same people) is much worse than it is for the LGBT community. What’s more: this isn’t an “either or” situation. There is no reason we can’t deal with all these issues. And it is unconscionable to pretend that these issues don’t exist—that we are throwing drug users in jail for long periods of time for their own good.

7 thoughts on “Michelle Obama and Downton Abbey

  1. Were you expecting a messiah who would rebuild our society from the ground up? He’s a man working for the corrupt government of a society that is more concerned with who will win American Idol than who might survive an American drone attack. A government in which he is a cog, not the engine. Expecting him to repair the damage done through decades of incompetence and greed can only lead to bitter disappointment. I’m glad you don’t hold your friends to such standards!

    Imagine if it was your job to care for one hundred three-year-olds. Before you can leave, you and your three assistants must come to a consensus about the best way to handle the children and no one can leave until every child is happy and content.

    One of your assistants thinks the toddlers should be allowed to do whatever their little natures feel is right, even if it means pushing and hitting the others. One assistant doesn’t actually like children and locks the "bad" kids in a closet as a lesson to the others. The third assistant won’t do anything because the kids don’t belong to him, so they really aren’t his problem. To make matters worse, your assistants despise you, so whatever you do to try and put things in order, they’ll give you a hard time. Meanwhile, you are surrounded by one hundred precious beings screaming for attention.

    And you have exactly 6 hours to make it work or be called the worst day care leader in history.

    It isn’t a comforting thought, but throughout history, in every society, there have been "classes" which were abused and maligned. Social mores change, basic human nature doesn’t.

  2. @Andrea – I don’t particularly disagree with you. I don’t think that Obama is a bad president. My point is that he is an establishment figure. It is outrageous that conservatives claim that he is a socialist. He isn’t even a liberal! He has been very clear about that. And it sucks! Conservatives may be unhappy that they are out of power, but at least when Republicans control the White House, the conservatives are in charge. When Democrats control the White House (For decades!) moderates are in charge. And what particularly annoys me is that when it comes to actual policy, America is more liberal than any "liberal" president we ever get.

    Also: Obama is a great hypocrite when it comes to drugs, as are Bush and Clinton. If these men had been given felonies for their drug use (or attempt in Clinton’s case), their lives would have effectively been over. Now they either don’t know this, in which case they are willful ignorant. Or they do, in which case they are the evilest of the elite.

  3. It’s been pretty much statistically proven that both Democrats and Republicans respond to the wishes of the rich. Rich people aren’t going to get busted for drug possession no matter how much or what they use, so it is not a big concern for them. Their sons and daughters might face prejudice for being LGBT, so that issue does matter to them.

    There aren’t really any popular movements putting pressure on Obama. There are popular opinions, as reflected in polling data, but almost no movements. Did Nixon create the EPA and sign the Clean Water Act because he was an environmentalist? Lord, no. He did so because the environmental movement was breathing down his throat.

    Good people are working to build popular movements, but we’re way behind the other side. The NRA, despicable as it is, really does constitute a popular movement. It may be backed by arms manufacturers who profit from sales to war zones, but it has millions of dues-paying members. Fundamentalist Chrsitian churches are another example. We don’t have much like that (maybe the AARP, on some issues.) If there were a million (or even a hundred thousand) family members of incarcerated nonviolent drug felons united in some way, that issue would be on the national radar.

    Personally I think the time was right for another FDR and we got another Hoover.

  4. @JMF – I understand. Of course, the NRA has been around for almost 150 years. I’ll give it some thought.

    But I won’t back down about the hypocrisy. For Bush, okay. But Clinton and Obama were not rich growing up. If either had been arrested, he would have been fucked. Elections are won by getting the votes of the people who weren’t in jail. I guess that is a take away.

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