Maureen Dowd : Behind Blue Eyes
Sunday, March 29, 2009
As international lunacy goes, it was hard to beat the pope saying that condoms spread AIDS. But Brazil’s president, known simply as Lula, gave it his best shot. At a press conference Thursday in Brasilia with Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain — who has a talent for getting himself into dicey spots — Lula started off coughing from some cheese bread he’d wolfed down. Then he suddenly turned accusatory. “This crisis was caused by the irrational behavior of white people with blue eyes, who before the crisis appeared to know everything and now demonstrate that they know nothing,” charged the brown-eyed, bearded socialist president. As the brown-eyed Brown grew a whiter shade of pale, Lula hammered the obvious point that the poor of the world were suffering in the global crash because of the misdeeds of the rich. “I do not know any black or indigenous bankers,” said Lula. He also told CNN he would press this theme at the G-20 meeting in London this week. He says his past as a poor, hungry, unemployed lathe operator gives him special insight. “I lived in houses that were flooded by water,” he said, adding, “Sometimes, I had to fight over space with rats and cockroaches, and waste would come in when it flooded.” The “Lula lulu” by the “Brazil nut,” as The New York Post dubbed it, became big news just as President Obama met at the White House with Vikram Pandit and a cadre of white-bread bankers who have taken the bailout — some of whom, like Jamie Dimon, have distinctly blue eyes.
And it is true, of course, that the upper-crust, underwhelming Anglo-Saxon leaders who allowed America’s financial markets to morph into louche casinos, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, were very, very white men with blue eyes. As the Who sang: “No one knows what it’s like to be the bad man, to be the sad man behind blue eyes. No one knows what it’s like to be hated, to be fated to telling only lies.” Every time Cheney looks into the camera with those ice-blue eyes and says President Obama is making us less safe, it sounds as if he’s secretly hoping we do get attacked just to prove his point that Obama is weak, even if he has to go up in smoke, too…..Before President Obama, whose brown eyes are opaque when you look into them, presidents have been more known for blue eyes. The ones with brown eyes, Richard Nixon and L.B.J., came a cropper. Throughout history, whether it’s images of Jesus that don’t look Middle Eastern or Barbies who don’t look ethnic, blue eyes and white skin have often been painted as the ideal. The cerulean-eyed Paul Newman once wryly predicted his epitaph: “Here lies Paul Newman, who died a failure because his eyes turned brown.” Surveys show that people with blue eyes are considered more intelligent, attractive and sociable. A 2007 University of Louisville study concluded that people with blue eyes were better planners and strategic thinkers — superior at things like golf, cross-country running and preparing for exams — while people with brown eyes had better reflexes, making them good at hockey and football. Lula’s rant underscored an ancient rivalry…..Barack Obama and his family have already had a profound effect on the culture in terms of what is beautiful and marketable. Black faces are popping up in all kinds of ads now — wearing straw boaters and other prepster outfits in Ralph Lauren ads. With Michelle urging students to aim for A’s and the president promising to make school “cool,” brown eyes may finally — and rightfully — overtake blue as the windows of winners.