13 Jul 2011

The Obama With a Thousand Faces

Stephen Marche, in Esquire, delivers the kind of tribute to Obama that carries a double-edge.

[E]ven if you disagree with him, even if you hate him, even if you are his enemy, at this point you must admire him. The turning point came that glorious week in the spring when, in the space of a few days, he released his long-form birth certificate, humiliated Donald Trump at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and assassinated Osama bin Laden. The effortlessness of that political triptych — three linked masterpieces demonstrating his total command over intellectual argument, low comedy, and the spectacle of political violence — was so overwhelmingly impressive that it made political geniuses of the recent past like Reagan and Clinton seem ham-fisted. …

Reagan was able to call upon the classic American mythology of frontiersmen and astronauts and movie stars; Obama has accessed a much wider narrative matrix: He’s mixed and matched Jay-Z with geek with Hawaiian with Kansan with product of Middle America with product of a broken home with local Chicago churchgoer with internationally renowned memoirist with assassin. “I am large, I contain multitudes,” Walt Whitman wrote, and Obama lives that lyrical prophecy. Christopher Booker’s 2004 book The Seven Basic Plots, a wide-ranging study from the Epic of Gilgamesh on and a surprisingly convincing explanation for why we crave narrative, reduced all stories to a few plots, each with its own kind of hero. Amazingly, Barack Obama fulfills the role of hero in each of these ancient story forms.

While Obama’s story is ancient, it is also utterly contemporary, perfectly of the moment. His gift — and it is a gift that makes him emblematic — is that he inhabits all these roles without being limited by them. He has managed, miraculously, to remain something of an outsider while being the president of the United States of America, the most inside man in the world. He’s African-American, but he’s not African-American. He’s from Chicago, but he’s from Hawaii. One month he’s bailing out the banks, the next he’s keeping Gitmo open. He pushes health-care reform through with an unimpeachable heave of will then extends the tax cuts. He walks smiling through the newly opened White House garden on his way to announce renewed efforts at oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, his “balanced” approach to the economy has led to a slower recovery than other industrialized nations and the war in Libya has been half-assed at best, which is exactly what war cannot be. For two years, he seemed disingenuous and defensive, pushed into roles that his predecessors had scripted, alternately playing savior then monster. But no more. We can finally see who he is, we can finally understand the reality: In 2011, it is possible to be a levelheaded, warmhearted, cold-blooded killer who can crack a joke and write a book for his daughters. It is possible to be many things at once. And even more miraculous, it is possible for that man to be the president of the United States. Barack Obama is developing into what Hegel called a “world-historical soul,” an embodiment of the spirit of the times.

StumbleUpon.com
2 Feedbacks on "The Obama With a Thousand Faces"

SDD

Barack Obama does indeed embody the spirit of the times — that sheer ego can suspend the physical realities of economics. Unlimited wants ought not to be subject to the constraints of limited resources — so they shall not be. The Wise Men of Washington ought to be able to make smarter decisions than millions of rubes — so we shall simply do so. You ought to be able to live off the labors of your neighbors without them reducing their production — so we shall tell them it must be. The young ought to gratefully transfer their resources to their ever increasing elders — so we shall simply tell the actuaries to stop. Medical care ought to be available to all irrespective of its cost — so we shall simply declare it a “right”.



Texan99

Yes, he’s not empty, capricious, or unprincipled — he’s vastly complex beyond our poor ability to comprehend. Please.



Comments

Please Leave a Comment!




Please note: Comments may be moderated. It may take a while for them to show on the page.













Feeds
Entries (RSS)
Comments (RSS)
Feed Shark