Love on Top!
In 2008, I went to a polling station for the first time ever. I was excited to be voting for my black first family. That year, I voted Michelle Obama for First Lady… Barack just benefitted by being married to her really— he was clearly just along for the ride. I could very clearly see how she would be an important figure in the White House and how her tenure in the Obama administration would have long lasting effects on the First Lady-ship, and on the hearts of Americans everywhere .
Michelle is iconic.
She is smart. She is black.
She is motivated… and black.
She is also a proud mother and wife… and black (very important).
Her approval ratings have remained steadily in the 70s from first term to this one, so imagine my annoyance at the loads of commentary and debate (yes people go back and forth) about Michelle setting back the feminist agenda and holding women back from being great…
But that’s not even the point of this post, because these
haters perpetrators commentators were already addressed quite eloquently by Demetria Lucas and really…
On Today (yup, I said on today… fall back.)… Valentines Day, I thought it was important to consider the First Lady and how love can do something as great as propel-you-to-the-white-house-to-push-your-war-against-obesity-agenda-while-inspiring-women-to-aspire-for-it-all. That same version of love could also bring you to Osu Castle only to experience the wahala of exposing your husband as an infidel, liar, cheat and polygamist, and humiliate you in the process while overshadowing any iota of good you may have been doing (still trying to find what that is).
This is not about comparing the two women at their core. This is about looking at how their love for their men put them in positions of power and how they were able to use these positions to effectively leave a lasting legacy as wives.
Yes… yes… relax… I do indeed realize that there is a lot we do not see about either of their relationships. And even more that we cannot know about their ‘love’. But let us do as our favorite economists and social scientists do by assuming ceterus paribus. All things held equal, assuming perfect conditions of love and respect lead to marriage, we can move forward to believing that their marriages were built on strong foundations of love and commitment (if you have problems with this logic, holla atchya b0y Adam Smith and/or Keynes… ***shrugs**) .
On the one hand, I have not. a. one idea what Mrs. Mahama does in her official capacity as First Lady. I’ll bet my life savings she has a charity or foundation that she is head of… and I am willing to believe she cares about some sub- community of kids in Ghana and is probably focusing on education or health in a very broad context. However, the fact that this eludes me but I can readily tell you about her husbands fiftyleven kids running round Ghana is sorely problematic. It’s bad enough that people just think of First Ladies as beneficiaries of their husbands hard work and success, but then you compound this with no real celebrity outside of gossip and it’s really a sad case. Similarly, I couldn’t tell you one thing about Laura Bush’s agenda as First Lady, but I can tell you I gave her the super side eye for the renegade attitude of her bay-bay kids (yes… this term is indeed cross-racial, be ye not deceived).
As far as American First Ladies go (in my time of living at least), Hillary and Michelle are definitely top notch. Ghana has had four First Ladies since becoming the Fourth Republic, and the only one I think actually mattered is Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings—Rawlings’ infamous wife. The thing is, love her or hate her, you can not deny her dynamism as a wife and politician. She is Michelle Obama in a sort of sordid, carnival-fun-mirror kind of way. We loved her because she was smart, articulate and very openly the political brains behind the whole Rawlings operation. However, we hated her because she was— well— messsssy, ha! I mean, black high school in southern Texas kind of messy… mean girls in uppity boarding schools kind of messy… overdramatic, gossip infused Nollywood film star kind of messy… I mean—ok well you get it. But her and Michelle have this in common—they supported their husbands rise to power and used their husband’s positions to push their own platform and political/ social agenda. Could they have done this on their own? Quite possibly, but they chose to follow their husbands into their roles and instead of languishing tacitly in the background, they have created their own space of notoriety. Furthermore, they use their role to advocate important issues while showcasing that they are smart, talented, 21st century women with children and careers and professional agendas.
Some people love each other and leave a legacy with their family or communities. When you happen to be married to a President, yours is the legacy of a nation. So while we are all love and rainbows and kisses and chocolate on Valentines day, consider the capacity of love in the most powerful office of a nation. Yes love is something between two people, but in the political realms, it can have an impact on so many more.
So naturally I have to ask, Mrs. Mahama, what are you doing with your Love on Top? You have 4 solid years to make the relationship between yourself and the highest office in the nation, one that is meaningful for all Ghanaians—
Happy Vals Day, ya’ll!