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What’s the big deal?

Posted: December 13, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 13, 2013 2:00 a.m.

There’s been a lot of hubbub this week around President Obama’s recent “selfie.” For those still without teenagers, or simply lagging in the latest technological fads, a selfie is when someone takes a picture of themselves.

At Nelson Mandela’s funeral, President Obama was captured in a photo taking a photo with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

And then all hell broke loose as the photo went viral with all manner of criticism about the inappropriateness of such an action.

The sequence of photos seemed to take on a life of its own with assumed narratives dreamt up by people nowhere near the event. But really, what is the big deal?

While it’s true a picture is worth a thousand words, the thousand words attributed to a picture may not always be the truth.

In my opinion, President Obama certainly deserves a healthy dose of criticism for a variety of reasons, but this just wasn’t one of them.

It’s impossible from the photo alone to tell whether it was taken before, during, or after the service or what the context was. Without that information, why spread malicious assumptions about our president?

It took a little less than five minutes on Google to find the blog post by the photographer, Roberto Schmidt, who snapped the photo. He shed a little light on context of the photo and the event itself.

Apparently, the service to honor the dearly departed in South Africa is not quite as somber an occasion as we

Americans are accustomed to. Schmidt described the funeral at the time of Obama’s selfie as follows:

“All around me in the stadium, South Africans were dancing, singing and laughing to honor their departed leader.

It was more like a carnival atmosphere, not at all morbid.”

Laughing, singing, dancing, and a carnival atmosphere! Sounds like fun to me. More funerals should be a celebration of the life that has passed rather than a mourning of death.

Looking back over the funerals I’ve attended, they often look more like a family reunion. So many of our group family photos were taken at funerals because everyone, from all corners of the country, was finally in the same place at the same time.

There was always an abundance of food, retelling of stories, laughter, often through tears, and plenty of photos.

It’s life. We wanted to capture it. I’m sure the people at Mandela’s funeral did too.

So why are journalists and the media placing so much attention on this one action by President Obama? Every news show I’ve seen since the funeral has mentioned the Obama selfie, most in a disapproving manner as if it were big news.

And it seems every legitimate online news source covered it as well.

Coverage has not been isolated to conservatives, but seems to be dominated by those looking for any reason to criticize, demean, or discredit the president.

Certainly, this can’t be their best hope to do that! With so many national and international issues at hand, it’s hard to imagine giving any time or attention to this story.

We have big issues to tackle. Talking about whether or not an Obama selfie was proper funeral etiquette or not doesn’t rank anywhere near the top of the list and only serves as a distraction.

As Republicans, criticizing the president for something as normal as taking a photo at a funeral just detracts from the seriousness of our message.

We need to stay on point and focus on important issues that will affect the future of our country like the budget, Obamacare, and fixing the economy.
Let’s keep our eye on the ball, people.

Tammy Messina is a resident of Santa Clarita, a local business owner and a producer for “The Real Side Radio Show.” She can be reached at



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