Since the practical difference between the two Presidential candidates is meaningless, it’s time to stop thinking about them and start reacting to them.
This past week, Obama was picked up mid bear hug by Floridian pizzaria owner, Scott Van Duzer. At first glance, it just seems like Duzer was a little too excited to see the President, and given the pizza proprietor is 6’3”, 265 pounds, he has the frame to pick up a skinny guy who thinks basketball is a good workout. Also, the name “Scott Van Duzer” is the name of somebody who is accustomed to boisterous, physical contact.
But then I thought: every time I’ve picked up someone mid-hug, that someone was a girl. Guys just don’t pick up other guys. It’s a little homoerotic, sure, but it’s also demeaning. I could only imagine being picked up by another man, and while it may be a little funny, I wouldn’t leave that interaction feeling like a man.
Jocks understand what I’m talking about. This is why Chris Paul got upset when Pau Gasol patted him on the head. The head is inches away from the shoulder, but when it comes to a pat from another man, it’s miles away. A pat on the shoulder is a display of affection done by equals. A pat on the head is a display of dominance done by a father to a child.
Picking somebody up in a bear hug is the same thing. Only a nerd or a robot would be unable to detect the difference between a regular hug and the one that elevated Obama.
As we all know from Oprah, you teach people how to treat you. If you get picked on, you’re probably weak. If you’re in charge, you’re probably decisive. If you always get patted on the head, you probably act like a child. And if you’re a guy who gets picked up by other guys, you’re probably a dork.
This hug reminds me of when Obama awkwardly bowed to the Saudi King in 2009. I’m also reminded of that image of Bo walking Obama. It’s the same issue. Duzar feels comfortable picking up Obama, just as the Saudi King feels comfortable not bowing in return, just as Bo feels comfortable sprinting ahead of his master.
Obama is a strong speaker, but maybe in person there’s something about him that contradicts his stage presence. Maybe he’s too chummy. Maybe he’s the kind of guy who covertly needs approval from everyone he meets. Or maybe he has the affability of a little brother, or a boy who grows up without a father. These guys make great lawyers, but not great leaders. Even if Gilligan as candidate resonated with you on all the issues, you still wouldn’t vote for him—though you probably would hit him with your hat.
Republicans initially reacted negatively to the hug, posting more than 100 one-star reviews of Duzar’s pizzaria on Yelp. And yes, on the surface, the hug was a sign of support for the President. However, emblazoned onto the American retina is now one more image of Obama being treated like a little buddy.