Editor’s Note: W. Kamau Bell is a sociopolitical stand-up comedian and the host of the upcoming CNN original series “United Shades of America.” He lives in Berkeley, California. Follow him on Twitter
W. Kamau Bell wishes Obama were the militant, anti-gun President the right conjures, but he isn't, so the scorn for him is off base
He says town hall left Obama defending what should be uncontroversial positions because the right still can't accept him as President
It’s times like this that I wish President Obama were the black militant socialist the right is convinced he is: some combination of young Malcolm X and an even older Bernie Sanders. (I am thinking about the kind of Bernie Sanders we will see if he doesn’t become president and totally gives up on the system.)
This country could use that kind of president, with black people in fear for our lives during every interaction with police and with literally every American at risk of some other American deciding to take out as many innocent people as possible because … Jesus and Muslims and women with opinions!...
We could use a President who was, like, “OK. Everybody turn in all your guns tomorrow by 5 p.m. After that, if I catch you with a gun then I’m sending SEAL Team Six to your house with a recent Facebook picture of you and those tanks that shoot fire that we haven’t used since Waco – Ummm – I mean since World War II.”
If the President were that guy, then all the anger and distrust (and outright disrespect) directed at him would make sense.
But it doesn’t, because he isn’t.
Thursday’s town hall meeting on guns in America was a stark example of how out of proportion the right’s feelings are to what the President is actually doing, or to what he might want to do, or to even what he says at all about pretty much anything.
When I heard President Obama was having the meeting, I was kind of happy for him. I thought, “He does well in those situations.” I pictured President Obama standing in the middle of a semicircle of people, with that whole no-suit-jacket-or-tie-with-the-top-button-of-his-dress-shirt-undone-and-his-sleeves-rolled-up – that whole “Let’s get to work!” look that he likes to sport at times.
In those situations he is at his best: relaxed, funny, off the cuff, thoughtful and smart, like your favorite substitute teacher.
“He will be able to knock this out of the park,” I thought. But the moment the town hall began I knew he was in trouble.
It felt more like a deposition than a town hall meeting. It felt more like President Obama was testifying in his own defense and his alibi was falling apart. And why was that? All the President wants is for fewer Americans to die from gun violence. That shouldn’t be a controversial opinion.
But it is controversial to many on the right, because the President himself is controversial. His very existence is problematic. He, himself, doesn’t makes sense to people on the right, so they don’t trust him.
Seven years into the Obama presidency the right feels the same way about President Obama as I would if I woke up tomorrow and a talking horse were president. I’d be like, “Seriously? This horse is the president? Well, that just doesn’t make any sense. Lemme see that horse’s papers. I know I saw them before, but I just want to see them one more time.”
The big difference between me and the right is that after seven years of the Mr. Ed presidency I think I would start to settle in and believe it was true. But to the loudest members of the GOP, something still doesn’t feel right about this Obama character being President. They can’t trust anything that comes out of his mouth. And they feel like they have to do something.
And that brings us to all these guns. For me, this boils down to a few questions:
Gun owners, how many different ways and/or times does President Obama have to say that he doesn’t want to take your guns away? Is there a specific way he needs to say it? Because if there is, then just tell him and I’m betting he will hold a press conference immediately and say it that way.
Or is there a number you all have in your head, and once he hits it you will stop pretending like he’s never said it? Can you tell us what the number is? Or at least can you tell us if President Obama is close to hitting the number? Because if he is, again, I’m pretty sure the President would clear his schedule and just spend the next few weeks saying, “I don’t want to take your guns away” over and over until he hits the magic number.
And then we could all have a productive discussion about how to solve the problem of America doing nothing when innocent people die for no reason due to guns being held by the people who kill people.
So Thursday night, instead of having a productive and engaging discussion about how to have fewer parents learning from a phone call that their children have been murdered at school, President Obama was mostly on trial for a crime he didn’t commit: stealing our Second Amendment rights.
And let me be clear, this would be a great week for President Obama to be on trial. Not about guns, but about his administration raiding the homes of undocumented Central American refugees and then deporting them back to the countries they fled for fear of violence in the first place.
You would think that between not taking people’s guns away and deporting undocumented people, President Obama would be a favorite of conservatives this week. He should be the leading GOP candidate for President with this record, but no. They still can’t get past the fact he is the President in the first place – twice.
And let me be clear about something else, gun owners. I want President Obama to want to take your guns away. I don’t trust you with your guns. I don’t trust you to fire them safely. I don’t trust you to store them safely. I don’t trust your kids not to find them. I don’t trust you not to get them stolen.
I don’t trust you not to issue a blanket blame of everyone with mental health issues every time there is a mass shooting, even though we all know that for the most part people with mental health issues are only dangerous to a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.
And frankly, I don’t trust you not to shoot me with your guns for no reason. But that’s just me, and my friends and family.
But it certainly isn’t President Obama. So stop pretending that it is.
The longer you gun owners do pretend the President wants your guns, the more innocent people die, because you can’t get past your disbelief that Obama is the President long enough to have a conversation that would save people’s lives.