The Great American Arms Debate
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The Great American Arms Debate

Washington : DC : USA | Mar 09, 2009 at 1:45 PM PDT
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When people referred to an arms debate in past years it always meant proliferation of some type of nuclear weapons by a rouge country with intent to do harm to the rest of the free world.

In recent times one quickly brings to mind Iran or North Korea. The US is still engaged in a controversial conflict in Iraq based initially on falsely reported claims of the country’s former leader possessing diabolical plans to stockpile weapons of mass destruction.

The arms race is a serious subject that has impacted this world by potentially threatening the security of millions of people.

So how did we arrive at the new arms debate? You know, the one referred to in some circles as Sleevegate? The hotly contested debate deriving from those who openly complain that America’s First Lady Michelle Obama is inappropriately revealing her athletically toned arms at events and ceremonies. They complain that she should not wear outfits that reveal her arms because it is winter or because it somehow turns a rigid ceremonial event into a casual one if her arms are seen.

Is this real? Sadly it is. Stories in print, news broadcasts and the topic of many cable talk shows have focused on fashion choices made by our new First Lady. And this is all taking place during a time of record foreclosures, historical unemployment numbers and massive failures of financial institutions and many long term successful businesses.

Can Americans afford to take time from solving the impending economic crisis to actually discuss fashion choices? Even more so, how did fashion topics evolve from being the cornerstone of entertainment and style shows to serious inclusion in news talk shows and hardnosed mainstream media?

Don’t get me wrong. Fashion has a place in this society but the underlying reasons behind why this topic warrants so much discussion is perplexing to me. Sleevegate, are you serious? Couching this issue under the same premise as the criminal acts of the Nixon Administrations Watergate makes me wonder if some Americans have too much time on their hands or is there a more conspiratorial reason behind all this public criticism.

Could race be a factor here?

Former President Jimmy Carter said during the campaign to get Barack Obama elected to the White House that race is always a lingering factor somewhere in the fabric of America even when it is not obvious or in the forefront of an issue. But there is something more behind this Sleevegate criticism than race as a sole motivating factor.

I also believe it is a fear of the unknown and different. The Obamas are new to many Americans. They are not part of the Bush or Clinton political dynasties and most Americans only became aware of their story over the past 18 months or less. Many obviously don’t share the same ethnic or cultural background as the Obamas, especially many of those passing judgment on Mrs. Obama’s wardrobe.

The Obamas represent what many people asked for, a change in leadership, someone different with new ideas who will take this country into a new direction. But does this difference frighten the very people who demanded change?

It brings to mind the old saying be careful what you wish for, you just may get it. Change is hard for some even after they strived for it. That is why gastric bypass surgeons have patients go through intense counseling after losing hundreds of pounds. The patients still see themselves as morbidly obese even after acheiving a healthy weight.

Perhaps it’s not the bare arms. Maybe it’s the color of them?

Is it that Americans are not used to seeing the First Lady’s arms in brown? Could it be that we are not used to seeing curly hair, wavy hair or hair that is different in our First Lady?

I was told once by a stylist from a Caribbean nation that one of our previous First Ladies would fly to the island to have her hair relaxed. The cosmetologist said the US President’s wife had the coarsest hair she had ever seen on a white woman. If this is true could it be something to this hypothesis that would drive one born with naturally coarse hair to go to such lengths to hide it from the American people for fear of public backlash from being a First Lady that is so different?

I don’t have the answer. Just more questions like why is this particular change so frightening to some?

Will Mrs. Obama revealing her arms also somehow reveal a covert plan to keep troops in Iraq? Will her fashion choices constitute a breach in security somehow?

It is simply a fashion choice and nothing more reflecting an industry largely interpreted by those who are employed to create the latest styles. So who is to decide what is appropriate and inappropriate? And why should we accept what they say? Should the standards being projected on our First Lady represent a wide brush that wipes free all of the individuality of America’s culturally diverse groups? Is it like asking Tina Turner not to bare her legs anymore because she is now over 60? (and still possessing a great pair of legs I might add)

America’s First Lady appears to take this all in stride. She is quoted in Essence magazine last year as saying “If I wilted every time somebody in my life mischaracterized me, I would have never finished Princeton, would have never gone to Harvard, and wouldn’t be sitting here with [Barack].” I assume she will have the same mindset relative to Sleevegate.

One positive angle to this overly blown issue of fashion is that Mrs. Obama is providing opportunities for up and coming designers to dress the First Lady in a variety of colorful and stylish apparel. I say let’s leave fashion to the industry experts and get back to the business of rebuilding our country one stitch at a time!

Audraine Jackson is based in Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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