In a Jet article that is coming out soon (is it already out? I’ve only seen excerpts on line) I was “quoted” (quote marks definitely intended) as saying I wished that our president had been more gangster in office. This apparently incendiary word set off rumbles with certain people who conflated my use of the word gangster with stereotypical depictions of black men in society today (even though I also tweeted that in my opinion Mandela and Clinton as well as a mother and father who raised their child in a hostile environment and grew a fully realized, free thinking human being would also be considered gangster. Oh well…). I realize that when speaking to reporters who are looking for the juiciest comments to print, a word like gangster in connection with a black president uttered by a black celebrity can almost be too much to resist. I also realize that when you do an interview you are likely to at least have your comments reduced and constructed to fit into a required space and never do you have say over the final edit. I say this not in defense but to offer some perspective. I believe I used the word gangster and I meant it. But I wasn’t talking about pants sagging and forties and “hoes” or any of that other nonsense and I find it hard to believe that that is what some people thought I was saying. I was talking about wish fulfillment; my own and my desire to witness something more than I had. When I was called by then Senator Obama to stump for him in 2008, I was honored and eager to do so. I took my two daughters with me to college campuses and rallied the troops for voter drives. Every opportunity I had to speak in public about my support for him, I did and still do. He is the clear choice in my opinion for 2012 and I will again support his re-election but those facts don’t mitigate what I earlier expressed about gangster, they coexist side by side. Coming out of eight years of a president who I believe in many ways took us as dangerously close to the brink of destruction as any before him, I was hoping for a seismic shift in the other direction. I don’t think we’ve had that. Many of my friends and family are scratching it out somewhere decidedly south of the ever widening gap between the haves and have nots, looking at losing their homes, colleges they can’t afford and healthcare they can’t avail themselves of. They’re the ones I’m thinking of when I say gangster. I understand the constraints of the president when dealing with a congress apparently dead set against working with him and I know how a bill becomes a law (I used to watch Schoolhouse Rock too). President Obama inherited a broken country mired in two wars, a financial crisis, a mortgage mess and more than we all probably even know about and has in my opinion brought us back from the brink. But I still see my friends in no better shape and the gap widening. I am not a policy maker and have no desire to be one. I am not running for office and would never be elected were I to. I have no designs on becoming a lobbyist. I am a father, a “husband”, an actor and a citizen of this country and planet who flippantly expressed on a press tour, a desire to see our president riding roughshod over his adversaries to get the job done for the least represented amongst us. I still want that. I still want that with full knowledge that it might be an uphill fight that ultimately proves impossible given the hostile impasse our president faces. I still have a fevered dream of the POTUS smacking up John Boehner in a public forum in middle America and making him defend support of tax cuts for the super rich. I want to see somebody go to jail over the financial crisis and not just black, brown and poor whites over humbles and minor drug beefs. I want the president to bail out homeowners who fell for the okey doke from predatory lenders and are two seconds from living on the streets or are already there. I want to see industrial polluters who are killing all of us slowly by poisoning our fragile environment swap places with the kid doing 15 years in Chino for shoplifting shoes. I want him to stand in front of the haters and go all Bill Duke on them and say, “You know you done fucked up now, don’t you?” I kinda want a gangster president. I was about to write that in the future I would chose my words more carefully but I’m sure I won’t. Besides, I think the debate is more enriching. I appreciate all the articles I was directed to and will try to find time to read them although I don’t need any more proof to support President Obama. I’m glad he’s at the wheel and not me – I woulda swung at somebody by now. I wish you all peace in the New Year and let’s keep on keeping on.

Don Cheadle

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