July 17, 2012

"When my son was 5, he asked me if I thought his 1-year-old sister was 'president of all the babies in the world — I mean, like, secretly'..."

"... and I had to admit that I couldn’t prove she wasn’t," writes Eric McHenry, explaining why he isn't going to respond to every argument made by Jack Cashill, the man who obsesses over Barack Obama's poetry. (There are 3 Obama poems, published when he was in college.)

I love the linked piece. Cashill is so bizarre, Obama's poetry is so jejune, and McHenry's an elegant writer.

But let's get back to the babies. I'm fascinated by the notion that all the babies of the world would somehow have a secret alliance. How would they communicate? What are their nationalistic goals? Could someone please write a screenplay?

ADDED: Here's what the Maraniss bio of Obama says about that poem "Pop":
The assumption then, and decades later, when the poem resurfaced and became an artifact for condescending literary criticism of a politician, was that “Pop” was about his grandfather Stan Dunham. There were aspects of the figure depicted in the poem that fit Stan: he smoked, drank, watched television, told jokes, and sometimes seemed small in the eyes of his grandson. But the essence of the work points in another direction, toward Frank Marshall Davis, the old black poet of Honolulu. Obama had visited Davis the previous summer for the first time in several years, after the traumatic bus stop discussion with his grandparents, so Davis’s visage was fresh in his mind. He found Davis a colorful figure and liked to write about him, as his memoir later revealed. Also, he called his grandfather Gramps, not Pop, by no means a conclusive hint, but one of many signs. Pop, or Pops, was a nickname more commonly used in the black community for older men. It was a jazz and pool hall nickname. The younger hippies who lived around Davis and acquaintances in the bars on Smith Street often called him Pop or Pops. At the time Obama wrote this, Stan was sixty-two, while Davis was a generation older, seventy-six, more of a Pops. In one stanza Obama listened as Pop told the young man that he was na├»ve and failed to understand the world because he had not suffered enough. In another Pop “recited an old poem he wrote before his mother died.” Stan would say many things to his hapa grandson, but not that his life was too easy. He was careless in other ways but always mindful of what Barry, with his darker skin, had to endure. Stan told people he wrote poetry, but he rarely did. He could recite a few limericks, but not his own poetry, and he was only eight when his mother committed suicide. In the scene in Dreams from My Father where Obama visited Frank after the bus stop incident, he was wearing reading glasses and drinking whiskey and sitting in an overstuffed chair....

“Pop” reveals more about the poet than the subject, or composite subjects. Obama the poet, like the memoirist, shows a keen awareness of otherness and life’s duality. He looks at Pop and sees something that repels him and attracts him, that he wants to run away from yet knows he must embrace. Pop makes himself small by what he says; Obama shrinks in his physical presence. The same stain on their pants, smelling the same smell, blood rushing from one face to the other. Looking in his own mirror first and then in the reflection of Pop’s glasses, he realizes that the old man, who bores him and twitches unhappily in his stuffed chair with his whiskey and his cigarette ashes, nonetheless knows all that he knows. Black or white, black and white, Stan or Frank, Stan and Frank— the same in the end.
If you actually want to read the poem, it's here.

36 comments:

EMD said...

Could someone please write a screenplay?

I think this is enough to discourage that notion.

Michael said...

I don't see why babies don't have a secret alliance. White males, all of them, meet every night and discuss ways to fuck up minorities and women; first in the general sense then we talk about every single woman and person of color specifically. Works great for us, hegemony wise, and it seems to work for the babies in the whining category.

traditionalguy said...

King Herod was fitting in well with the Caesar, and he had it all under control in Judea. And then the astrologers told him about a baby born who destined to be the Messiah. Herod went nuts and the baby ended up hiding in Egypt until Herod had died.

Maybe the babies born to authority have a secret network too. I never trusted Sesame Street.

Tristram said...

Considering the generational wealth tranfers, I'd have to say the President of the Babies is at good at protecting the wealth of the average baby as the POTUS is at protecting the wealth of the average US citizen.

Mitch H. said...

Wasn't that the premise of half-a-dozen "breeder comedies" from the Nineties - stuff like Look Who's Talking and Baby Geniuses?

edutcher said...

Babies do seem to groove on each other. There's this kind of, "Hey, babe, gladda seeya", thing going.

If you've ever seen two or more small kids take off in different directions at once, you know they've planned it out.

PS Since Cashill's the guy who figured out William Ayers is probably the author of Choom's book, his stuff may not be that far out there.

Ann Althouse said...

There's also that last scene in "The Witches of Eastwick," with the 3 babies, born of the devil, starting to get their act together. But they lived together.

ndspinelli said...

The movie was already made, Look Who's Talking. I saw it @ a drive-in w/ My Dinner W/ Andre.

ndspinelli said...

I just clicked EMD's link. "A day late and.."

Ann Althouse said...

"Look Who's Talking"... wasn't that just a baby who we could hear talking? I don't remember any secret connection of all babies. That would be a science fiction tale.

AllieOop said...

Babies Unite!

sydney said...

In Mary Poppins the babies could talk to the sunlight and the birds. Maybe the network that way.

Freeman Hunt said...

Babies would support policies subsidizing sweet potatoes and bananas instead of corn.

And they'd want to ban smartphones.

Freeman Hunt said...

Babies might also push to make parents leaving the room a criminal act.

wyo sis said...

It probably won't get a lot of traction here, but I sometimes think babies come with knowledge of a sort of pre-life and they slowly forget it by the time they can articulate it. Several of my babies did things that made me think they were communicating with either people/beings I couldn't see or with each other.
It was especially strong with my last child who was born about 10 months after my father died and about a month after my husbands mother died. She would look up at a point above her and babble or gaze quietly and look as if she were listening to something. She always had a look of profound happiness at those times. It lasted about 9 or 10 months and then she stopped doing it.

AllenS said...

If babies had any sense, they wouldn't shit their pants.

ricpic said...

Should You Elect Me I Promise...

Pablum for all
And a warm breast to suck on,
Blocks in the hall
And the next breast to tug on,
Then heed sleep's call
And both breasts to dream on.

prairie wind said...

...traumatic bus stop discussion with his grandparents...

Not familiar with the story, but I'm guessing that Barry wanted money for the bus and his g-parents told him he had already overspent his allowance and then Barry browbeat them about how they had more money than he did and they should share the wealth.

They must have given in.

Jim S. said...

Perhaps there's just one ultra-mega-superbaby and all the others bow to his will. Like Stewie from Family Guy. They don't need to communicate much: Stewie contacts them via some mind communication gizmo he invents and let's them know the score.

Lem said...

This is what it has come to...

After reading the article I thought 'at least McHenry didn't charge Cashill with racism'.

A critic critiquing another critic.. I don't know how rare that is.. but Obama sure brings out the 'best' in people... another way of saying that is... from what I've seen of State of the Union Speeches and other prime time speeches... Obama is no big time orator nor writer... that's assuming that you would pull out all the stops for the SotU.

But, then again.. nothing that has ever applied to other presidents applies to Obama.

AllieOop said...

WyoSis, whoa, we so agree on this one! My youngest granddaughter is named after my deceased mother. My mother was a meticulous German hausfrau, always so fastidious. She would entertain her many grandchildren by moving her tongue back and forth sideways, the grandkids loved it.

When my granddaughter was a few months old she started doing that identical thing with her tongue. We joke that my mother was just waiting for one of he great grandchildren to be named after her to reincarnate in that baby. My granddaughter loves helping her mom, my daughter "clean", it's uncanny.

ricpic said...

wyo sis - Your observation is at the very heart of Wordsworth's Intimations of Immortality -- that the child comes from heaven trailing clouds of glory.

DADvocate said...

I doubt if babies have nationalistic goals. Probably generational goals. Kind of like the baby boomers have, "How can we screw everyother generation?"

AllieOop said...

Should that be incarnate? Not reincarnate.

ricpic said...

Should You Elect Me I Promise...

Pablum for all
And her left breast to suck on,
Blocks in the hall
And her right breast to tug on,
Answer sleep's call
And both breasts to dream on.

ndspinelli said...

AllenS, What honest adult can say they never sharted?

MayBee said...

Wyo sis- I agree with you. My youngest son, now a teenager, still remembers some of the people he used to see in our home.
It was never a scary thing, though. Just like babies are still connected to where their souls come from.

EMD said...

"Look Who's Talking"... wasn't that just a baby who we could hear talking? I don't remember any secret connection of all babies. That would be a science fiction tale.

Look Who's Talking Too had multiple babies who could converse, but the adults could not understand them.

Hence, a secret connection.

AllenS said...

I wasn't wrong, Nick. I misstated something.

wyo sis said...

Well, with a little encouragement I have to tell this one now.
My dad died in November and three of his 5 children had babies the following September. I was 43 at the time mine was born. My sister got Married in early December and had a honeymoon baby. Only my older sister and my sister who'd had her tubes tied didn't participate in the madness. Those 3 children each posses at least one strong similarity to my Dad. We always say he sent them to us especially me as his last practical joke.
It's actually pretty nice to have at least one thing in common with Allie.

dbp said...

At night, just before being put-down for the evening; our oldest daughter would sometimes stare out the window. She was focused on something off in the distance, but with the light on in the room and total darkness outside, all you could see was a reflection. It was really creepy and you couldn't help but peer out the window too, just to make sure there wasn't some apparition just outside.

Blue@9 said...

Hmmm... Obama's poems aren't that bad. The craft is good, but they suffer from the young poet's curse of not really having anything to say.

I guess not much has changed since he became President.

Ann Althouse said...

Here's a movie that will never be made: All the aborted babies rise up and demand justice.

el polacko said...

Could someone please write a screenplay?

it's called "village of the damned" based on the novel,'the midwich cuckoos' by john wyndham. you'll want the 1960 george sanders version over the 1995 christopher reeve version...or just check out both.

kimsch said...

Baby Geniuses
"Dr. Elena Kinder and Dr. Heap work for BABYCO, the world's leading manufacturer in baby products. What the public doesn't know, however, is that Dr. Kinder and Dr. Heap are secretly working on cracking the code to "baby talk" which is actually a highly sophisticated language which allows babies to communicate the knowledge of the secrets of the universe with which they are born. Problems arise when Sly, the smartest of the babies, escapes from the lab and unites the babies of the outside world to help free the babies trapped in the lab. Kinder and Heap must find Sly before it is too late."

H said...

When our first born was very small, he would occasionally get a look of shocked (annoyed) surprise on his face. We put that look into words by saying what we thought he must have been thinking: "They didn't say anything about that in baby school."

So I don't see any reason why the babies shouldn't elect a class president.