Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Obama -rama (again)

A while back, I wrote:

With all these opinions in mind, (Obama's blue lips made a special impression), I came to the conclusion that there appears to be a longing among Americans to generate a little love for themselves in the world and they think they can achieve that by showing to the world that they can elect a black president, whose middle name is Hussein, and who was in fact born into a Muslim (though secular) family. Someone correct me if I’m wrong but there has not been a black elected head of state in any of the Western countries, so Americans may be feeling that to be the first democratic, Western, largely-white country to elect a black man would help restore their tarnished image to its former glinting surface (though I suspect that had never been the case anyway).It may be a version of “some of my best friends are…” writ large.


For this opinion, I was derided on the Drenched Trots (a bunch of rough-spoken iconoclastic contrarians somewhat modeled upon the Hitchens) , but I held on fast to it. It was an intuition I decided not to discard. It seems that much more prominent others have thought along similar tracks as well:

I first became suspicious of Obama’s charms when I found myself praising the Illinois junior senator without so much as a data point’s worth of evidence. “Unlike Hillary,” I heard myself say, “Obama at least believes in something.” It occurred to me, at once, that I had no sound reason for uttering this. And I was disturbed. The effortless oratory; the vast, glassy smile; the whole kinetic promise of the boy wonder rising — I’d been suckered.

In hopes of making myself less foolish, I turned to Andrew Sullivan’s December 2007 Atlantic Monthly piece on Obama entitled “Goodbye to All That.” I soon found that the most outrageous thing about calling Obama “articulate” is that it’s pretty much all there is to say about him. I once wrote: “To speak of the Clintons in terms of
political ideology is to speak of gravity and inertia in terms of hair color.” In the case of Obama, to speak of political ideology is to speak of hair color. Or at least color. Sullivan writes that Obama’s face is “central to an effective war strategy.” And goes on: “Consider this hypothetical. It’s November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees that this man — Barack Hussein Obama — is the new face of America. In one simple image, America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm.”

Charm, eloquence, image, irresistible lure, all these are mere surfaces. The only significant insight into the man's possible gravitas may have been contributed by Cass Sunstein . He would know but it would be nice if he could provide some very concrete examples to support his glowing endorsement.

I tend to nurse deep suspicion of people who can wield magic with words. It usually means that there a combination of great linguistic facility, keen intelligence and full awareness of the ethical and moral. However, these do not necessarily go together with suiting action to words.

So Americans are fed up with their inarticulate, unpopular president who has nothing "sexy" to recommend him. Nothing at all. So they are all going ga-ga about the embodiment of the very opposite of all these unforgivable flaws. In our media-regulated age, if you wish, brilliance and authenticity are just eye and ear pleasing images on the screen.

People want to be seduced and to fall in love. A by-product of deep infatuation is what Stendhal called: Crystallization. It is a process in which the less attractive characteristics of a new love are not merely ignored; they are transformed into perceptual diamonds of shimmering beauty.

Stendhal: I call 'crystallization' that action of the mind that discovers fresh perfections in its beloved at every turn of events.

When we are in love, the beloved can do no wrong. There are fresh explanations for every little incongruity of feeling or lapse of good faith.

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