The Hidden Danger of Obamamania

One of the things I’ve noticed living in the United States is the deference that holders of the Office of President receive. Not in so much regarding the superficial – they retain their titles for life, have libraries in their honor and so forth – but rather how they are often viewed as transcending party politics: they rise up, bridge the partisan divide, and do what’s right for the nation. Great figures, visionaries, leaders of men.

Yet nowhere is this more pronounced than in the elevation of Barak Obama to the status of demi-god. This is seen everywhere, from people swooning in his presence and being healed just by touching his clothes (metaphorically speaking), to the hilariously collectible kitche. Yet beneath the jubilation, there lurks a hidden danger in what Gene Healy termed “The Cult of the Presidency”.

On the face of it, for any sober minded person, Obama Kitch is pretty funny, and credit to marketing types for creating Obama Sex Toys, Obama Comics, an Obama-shirt-wearing dancing bear, Obama-Themed Keds Shoes and countless t-shirts/buttons/pins/you name it to list but a few.

There also exists a Obama Collectors Guide: (Tip #4: Find a reasonably priced Obama piece and just BUY IT!)

And of course, no event would ever be real without a collectors plate. Check out this advert, so you can commemorate “the day the world changed forever”:

The National Poet of Wales was commissioned to write a poem. Apparently when it was first read “all the children stood up cheering and hugging each other”

“Yet tonight, under the cold beauty
of the moon and Venus,something like hope begins,
as if times can turn, the world change course,
as if truth can speak, good men come to power”

Read the whole poem here.

Other examples get slightly more sinister. The PA system on the metro constantly reminding us to buy our commemorative Obama Metro Smart Cards is VERY 1984, not to mention the large posters EVERYWHERE.

Then there are the personal experiences. Schoolchildren cheering, grown men weeping – the world is filled with the personal deeply deeply moving almost-religious experiences of those who had experienced The One.

These examples, of course, are all rather humorous. But lurking behind this is an undercurrent I would describe as disturbing at best.

I still remember the scene in DC on election night. I can think of no better way to describe it other than when some charismatic yet totalitarian revolutionary leader had seized power in some TPD (technical political science term – tin-pot dictatorship). The city was gripped with a frantic hysteria I had never seen even at the height of sporting or other such triumphs; a euphoria I had never seen before.  The streets were taken over. As the mob marched on the White House, I noted to people next to me all we were missing were the 20 people in the back of a ute (pickup) with guns ala the newsreels. No sooner had I uttered that sentence than one drove past (minus the AK-47s).

For the first time in my life I was genuinely scared for democracy. I do not posses the linguistic skills to accurately capture this feeling in words, but I saw the thin line that separates us from mob rule. Of course, this is not to mean that that mob rule was going to occur, nor do I equate Obama supporters with totalitarian revolutionaries. Rather, I mean that I saw a glimpse of how blind emotional support can lead people down a path that leads to totalitarianism. It is the emotion, the atmosphere, the blind, unthinking devotion that captured the mob. They effectively subjugated themselves, their individuality to to Obamamessiah, going whoever he would lead.

Of course, it is only natural many people would rejoice at the demise of GWB. But there is something more here. It is the projections of peoples hopes, their dreams into one man. One man with power. And when we embody all our solutions in a Nietzian Superman, this is how dictatorships get started.

In a democratic country, I would argue such adulation for politicians is unhealthy at best. We need constant skepticism towards power, always look for the nakedness beneath the emperor. Politicians are not great, but rather ordinary. And the more ordinary, the better.

What we really need at the Inauguration is not change, but a revival of a very, very old tradition. As Obama, ringed with flowers & astride his Unicorn of Hope rides into the rainbow tomorrow, savoring his Triumph in all his glory, what we need, what we really, really need is someone to stand behind him and whisper: “Respica te, hominem te memento”.

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9 Responses to “The Hidden Danger of Obamamania”

  1. MC Says:

    Obamania – South Park style.

    Good episode.

  2. John Smith Says:

    Tim, you’re a fucking douche,

    come back to Australia so you can be assaulted.

  3. Tim Says:

    Thank you for your erudite, well thought out, and in depth analysis of my post, “Mr. Smith”.

    Your comments are duly noted.

  4. Scott Farlow Says:

    Tim I hope you have cornered the market on the commemorative plates – those things will be worth a fortune. I particularly like the typical mid-western Republican family who have been “waiting for this day”, not to mention the young blonde girl who seems fascinated by the plate. All really quite symbolic of the hearts and minds captured by Obamania.

    P.S. Does the plate come with a free set of steak knives?

  5. Ben Raue Says:

    It’s disturbing the way Americans deify their Presidents. But it’s hardly Obama’s fault or the fault of the left. Look at the way that the Republican presidential candidates couldn’t shut up about Ronald Reagan during the primary debates.

  6. rachel Says:

    I don’t think the Obama love-in is a sign of any incoming totalitarianism (give him a couple of months and both right and left will be on his back). To borrow from one of my political opponents, it’s more akin to the flapping over Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. And excitement about the end of Bush.

  7. Tim Says:

    Oh I certainly agree with both those points (even if I don’t understand the pop culture references lol). I merely observe how – given differing circumstances – these things can slide.
    Although I do think that uncritical, unthinking adulation to a political leader – irrespective of party (and I think that Regan had his faults too! [still best US prez ever tho lol]) is unhealthy for any democracy.

  8. Ben Raue Says:

    Yeah, I don’t understand the whole celebrity thing, but I’m not surprised that people are treating it as a particularly special inauguration, both because he stands out so much in terms of his background from his predecessors (not just racially), but the fact that, for Democrats, such a decisive victory is rare. Five Democrats took office off the Republicans in the 20th Century: Wilson, FDR, Kennedy, Carter, Clinton. Wilson, Kennedy and Clinton really only won by the skin of their teeth and/or by splitting the right. And Carter really was a failure. So it’s been a long long time since the Democrats have had someone perform like Obama. Of course, he could fall apart, but if he goes along the current path he’ll be the biggest star in the Democratic Party since FDR, if he isn’t already.

  9. MC Says:

    AHA! So THIS is the real reason some are so riddled with Obamania!

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