Changelian: Common White House controversy is another blow to sanity

Armen Changelian

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

When First Lady Michelle Obama planned last night’s “Evening of Poetry” as part of the White House Music Series, she might not have anticipated the backlash it would elicit from conservatives. While the White House is well known for hosting various celebrities and public figures, there seemed to be more controversy than usual surrounding the invitation of a man named Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr., better known as Common.

Widely recognized as one of today’s most socially and politically conscious hip hop artists, Common seemed to be a fresh, appropriate choice for the White House poetry reading. In 2007, he appeared on HBO’s Def Poetry, reciting a poem on governmental abuse of power and the struggle of minorities. His message was clear, inspiring and responsible – just the type of voice one would expect the White House to celebrate.

But not everyone saw it that way. Even before the scheduled poetry reading had taken place, conservative pundits such as Sean Hannity were denouncing the decision to invite ComMonday, claiming his lyrics promoted cop killing and violence toward former President Bush. The line, “burn a Bush ‘cause for peace he no push no button” from Common’s Def Poetry performance sparked much of the outrage among the right. But Hannity also added that ComMonday, a vocal supporter of President Obama, had also performed at Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church in the past. This was enough for Hannity to conclude that Obama “goes back to his radical roots again and again and again.”

Hannity was not alone in his criticism. In fact, whenever a non-issue explodes into a national controversy, the world can almost always expect Sarah Palin to weigh in. She hammered the Obama Administration, saying the decision to invite Common was “just so lacking of class and decency and all that’s good about America.” Palin strongly condemned the rapper’s violent rhetoric, apparently having forgotten the outrage sparked by her Congressional cross-hair map and her call for Republicans to “reload.”

Common may be outspoken and strongly opinionated, but his lyrics wouldn’t be generating this type of controversy if he wasn’t so supportive of Obama and so critical of Bush. Fox News even praised Common several months ago, calling him a “very positive” influence and referring to him as “the conscious rapper.” Now, all of a sudden, he’s “vile.”

Even though conservative pundits can’t seem to make up their minds as to whether they love or hate ComMonday, their outrage is still completely unprecedented and unwarranted. The White House has a long history of inviting and honoring controversial figures without such angry backlash. Bill Clinton, for instance, had the gall to invite Eric Clapton, who sang about cocaine and even claimed to have shot the sheriff, but not the deputy. Before that, George H.W. Bush invited Eazy-E of N.W.A., a group known for its undying love of police officers.

But if conservatives are looking for truly vile, radical lyrics, they need look no further:

“I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man. You’d better keep your head, little girl, or you won’t know where I am. You’d better run for your life if you can, little girl, hide your head in the sand, little girl, catch you with another man, that’s the end, little girl.”

Those are the words of the violent, acid-tripping, mop-headed murderers known as “The Beatles.” Just imagine the outrage that would erupt if President Obama had the audacity to honor Sir Paul McCartney for such controversial work.

It seems sanity just can’t catch a break. Just when we thought we had seen the end of bogus conspiracy theories and false controversies, crazy made a comeback. The birthers had been all but silenced, and even the Osama “deathers” were retreating, but that didn’t stop the country from manufacturing a brand new controversy.

We’ve become experts in false outrage. The stories that dominate the national discourse nowadays are almost comical. Luckily, the controversies have become so absurd that squashing them has become a relatively simple matter.

When asked for a comment on the Common controversy, Palin replied, “It’s just – it’s too easy.”

She took the words right out of my mouth.

Armen Changelian is a Weinberg sophomore and DAILY blogger. He can be reached at and followed at

Watch the clip below for an excerpt of Common’s controversial White House performance: