George Graham

Don’t Expect me to Pat You on the Back, Mr. President

I suppose that outsiders like me automatically assume that black Americans are liberal, that they seek change, justice, reform and all that good stuff. I know that’s how I would be if I were African-American. And I would be quite impatient about it.

How many roads must a man walk down before they call him a man, after all?

I don’t know a single Jamaican who would docilely put up with the injustice and oppression that black Americans have endured for centuries. Try that kind of stuff in the island and you get the Maroon revolt, the Baptist War, the Morant Bay Rebellion and Bustamante’s general strike.

I can only imagine how Granny Nanny (illustration on Jamaican bank note above) and Cudjoe would have responded to the Ku Klux Klan, for example.

Sure, there was – is – oppression and injustice in Jamaica. But you don’t see many of the oppressed happily accepting it.

So I assumed that America’s first black president, married to a descendant of slaves, would be more, well, “progressive.” But you know what they say in those corporate seminars, “when you assume you make an ASS of U and ME.” Yeah, that’s the kind of humor you get in the corporate world. (And they actually draw you a diagram to make sure you get it.)

I also assumed that his progressive agenda was being sabotaged by undemocratic Democrats beholden to the moneybags who control the levers of power in America. And I could see how the boot-licking Republicans were adamantly blocking any attempt to stop the rich from getting richer and the poor (and middle class) from getting the shaft.

But I’m not fired up by recent remarks the president, his press secretary and his chief of staff have made about people like me.

They are actually blaming us for being dissatisfied with the job they’ve done so far. Here’s what the president had to say last night at a fund raiser in Greenwich, Connecticut:

Democrats, just congenitally, tend to get — to see the glass as half empty. (Laughter.) If we get an historic health care bill passed — oh, well, the public option wasn’t there.  If you get the financial reform bill passed — then, well, I don’t know about this particular derivatives rule, I’m not sure that I’m satisfied with that. And gosh, we haven’t yet brought about world peace and — (laughter.) I thought that was going to happen quicker. (Laughter.) You know who you are. (Laughter.) We have had the most productive, progressive legislative session in at least a generation.

So he isn’t just frustrated by the lack of cooperation from Blue Dog Democrats. He isn’t just furious at Republicans for being such champions of the upper dog, blocking redress at every turn. He’s also taking shots at us for complaining about him.

He insists that he is proud of his administration’s achievements.

Look, I know you’ve had a rough deal, Mr. President. I know you have a lousy political system to work in. I know the Democratic Party is riddled with disloyalty, and the current crop of Republicans are as close to being enemies of the state as anybody I’ve ever heard about.

Of course you’ve still got my vote, no matter what you hear me say. You know only too well that folks like me could never vote for the Sarah Palins and Newt Gingriches of the world. But, gosh, don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back. There are a few words I could use to describe the current Congress but “productive” and “progressive” aren’t among them.

And I certainly am not alone. Here’s a roundup published by today:

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for