This has officially become irritating. Near as I can tell, 99% of the people obsessed with the upcoming meet-and-greet at the White House picnic table are focusing on the beer. (We Americans are masters at stripping anything down to its most trivial aspect.)
Either they’re annoyed at the beer choices (too foreign, too industrial, too whatever), or they’re ruminating, in entirely too much detail, about beer as a metaphor for — take your pick — class, race, whatever.
Folks, it’s not about the beer. This is President Obama putting campaign rhetoric into action. Remember back in the campaign? He kept saying he wanted to help Americans find common ground.
The example he used was abortion. Yes, some people are pro-choice, some people aren’t. But as he pointed out, no one in their right mind wants abortion for the sake of abortion. So he said he hoped to bring both sides together to focus on what matters: why there’s a need for abortion in the first place. To have the good minds on both sides of the issue talk about the core of the issue — unwanted pregnancy — rather than continuing to talk past each other.
That’s what he’s doing with the “Beer Summit”: bringing together two people who, I guarantee you, are burdened with misconceptions and stereotypes of each other.
I doubt Gates has ever talked with a cop in his life. And I suspect Crowley isn’t much fond of the snooty professor types in Cambridge
. They’re not alone. We Americans are as divided by “class” (economics, education, upbringing) as we are by race, religion, and our attitudes toward abortion. I know this. I’ve spent my entire life talking to both sides. Having a conversation with dishwashers on Tuesday, and chatting with professors on Wednesday. (*1)
So Obama is bringing together two men from two entirely different worlds. He’s gonna sit down with them, and they’re gonna talk. The beer was just a way to do that.
Sure, he could have said, “Hey, guys, let’s have a cup of coffee.” But that’s not as, well, informal. Not quite as conducive to laying all the cards on the table, looking each other in the face, and finding common ground.
So let’s get over the beer bullshit, and focus on what matters. I hope Crowley, Gates, and Obama have a great time.
*1: I didn’t plan it that way. From the time I was sixteen until my early 30s, I worked in pink and blue collar jobs. Never talked to anyone BUT dishwashers, construction workers, janitors. Then I went to college and suddenly I was talking to professors and other white collar types.