Dear President and Mrs. Obama,
As a citizen of the United States, the wife of a military member, and now a resident of the D.C. area, I've discovered that it's no easy thing to visit the White House. However, I know it's your home and that the security of your family is a top priority.
Last spring, hoping to arrange a White House visit for our family, I submitted a request through one of our congressional representatives, including all of our vital personal information. Our first request was rejected with no reason given, so I submitted another request to another representative. We were thrilled when it was accepted.
On the appointed day, we showed up an hour early and waited in a long line. We were put through several layers of security, including a metal detector and multiple checks of our identification. For the privilege of visiting your home, we accepted limits on what we could carry with us. We took no pictures indoors. We stayed behind the velvet ropes. We didn't sit on the furniture. We saw no members of your family except Bo, the dog.
Still the experience was one I will never forget. I felt fortunate to visit the historic home where you live while serving our country.
I wonder if you can imagine, then, how I felt when I learned that a rapper who advocated the killing and torture of U.S. military members and their families was invited to perform at "Christmas in Washington" on Dec. 5, where you and your family were the guests of honor.
How can it be that my military family is considered a potential security risk, while this man is an honored guest, invited to meet your family personally and shake your hand?
I understand that Park Jae-sang, a South Korean performer, sang the offending lyrics several years ago out of anger at the killing of his fellow countrymen and women. It is tragic that two South Korean girls were killed in an accident involving a U.S. tank. I too am angry that a missionary from his country was killed by Iraqi insurgents, who then blamed the death on Americans.
As an American and as a journalist, I advocate his freedom of expression. He is free to express his opinions and vent his emotion through his performances, even using language that I find highly offensive. However, freedom of expression is not a freedom from the consequences of what is expressed. Park did not simply speak out against the policies of the U.S. He advocated the killing of American military members and their families, and the lyrics were reported by CNN in October. He should never have been invited to share a stage with the Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces.
Yes, I know that last week -- when it appeared Park's appearance at this Washington charity event might be in jeopardy -- he apologized, saying he was "deeply sorry for how these lyrics could be interpreted." I've read the English translation, and I don't think much more interpretation is necessary.
Although this charity concert did not take place at the White House, Mr. and Mrs. Obama, your presence carried no less significance. As the leader of our country, you have considerable influence over the guest list of any event that you and your family attend, particularly in our nation's capital. This was an opportunity to use that influence to stand up for military families.
A petition urging you not to allow Park to appear with you was posted on the White House website last week. The petition was removed, apparently because its language violated the standards outlined on the website. I did not see the petition before it was taken down. Perhaps it should have been worded more judiciously. However, if its language was inappropriate for the White House website, then surely this man's past language makes his performance inappropriate for the residents of the White House.
Can it be that having nearly a billion hits on YouTube gives a man such celebrity status that his denigration of military families like mine can be overlooked, even by you? If so, this is a shameful triumph of self-promotion over selfless service.
Please remember that while you, your family and guests celebrate in Washington, many military members are celebrating apart from those they love most.
American military members are unlikely to make a big deal about this. They have a job to do. They are serving on foreign soil because their first allegiance is to their country. Maybe they'll be too busy to read about this event or see it on television, but if they do, they might be as disappointed as I am that your first allegiance was not to them.
A military wife
Terri Barnes, writes Spouse Calls, a column about military families and spouses, for Stars and Stripes. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or at http://www.stripes.com/blogs/spouse-calls/spouse-calls-1.9571