Tuesday, January 20, 2009

American Idol

All right everybody. Do you think we can temper the idolatry a bit with a little dose of reality? Do you think we can reserve the hero worship for someone who has actually accomplished something heroic? Do you think we can adopt a reasonable view of the anointed one, and a reasonable expectation? Do you think we can all agree that a savior is not yet actually moving among us, even though we view him as transcendent, capable of healing, and of levitation? Did I somehow miss the guy’s birth, death, and resurrection? I have certainly witnessed his ascension.

C’mon people, we’re already naming schools after him, streets, community centers, pets, children, songs, towns. . . . . . . . . . .yes towns. Middle School and High School choirs are being named after him. They’re writing anthems and songs of worship to honor him, and they’re being taught in the classroom to revere him. Criticism of him is being forbidden. They’re considering making his birthday a National holiday.
Sounds alarmingly like Kim Jong il of North Korea, don’tcha think?

Hey people, they’re putting his likeness on everything from napkins to lampshades,
t-shirts to tennis shoes to flags. Fine china to coins to crystal goblets to commemorative plates, from Frisbees to kites to guitars to bikes to basketballs. They’re tattooing his mug on their backs and bottoms and belly’s and biceps and breasts. And there’ll be soda and beer and candy and gum and chips and dips and doughnuts sold in homage to his name. Just wait and see. You just wait and see.
Celebrities are tripping over themselves to get on his speed dial. And drooling over the possibility of masturbating in the Lincoln bedroom.

Barack Obama, American Idol. Now don’t let me give you the wrong impression. I like Barack Obama. In fact I wrote in my column “Silence Doesn’t Lie” on 2/1/08 that if he came to my house, and I were a dog, reading body language, and responding to my instincts, I’d trust him. That’s right, I’d trust him, much more so than any of the other front-running presidential primary candidates at the time. In fact, what I actually said was “I’d meet him at the gate, lead him up the walk, through the house to the back yard where my family was gathered. And, based on my comfort level with him, they’d probably invite him to stay for the barbecue.” That’s right, in fact I’d like to have him at the barbecue.

We’ll, it looks like the whole country is having a big barbecue, and everybody wants Barack to light the charcoal. So, lets take a look at how everybody arrived at wanting this guy to grace their own back yard. Now, for the intellectual and cultural snobs, for the intellectually lazy who would wish to label me racist for an objective view, and for the self-loathing apologists who revere race and ethnicity for its own sake, (dare I say, the actual racists, who perpetuate double standards, and who find racism in everything because it makes them feel enlightened and superior, in spite of their own myopia), let me clarify my feelings, and my position on Mr. Obama. Not Mr. Obama, the black man, as you would like to see it, but Mr. Obama, the man, as I see him.

Somebody I would be friends with. Well reasoned and well spoken. The courage to speak his mind, by all accounts a good husband and father. Charming, thoughtful, and passionate. Possesses a salient measure of wisdom. Has a social conscience and a willingness to express it. A man of character. A man of faith. The kind of qualities I look for in a friend, and would hope for in a president.

All right then, that having been said, should I not be dizzy beside myself with glee like everybody else at his ascension to the presidency? Should I not kiss the ground upon which he walks? Should I not buy one of those lampshades with his likeness? Well, I might, except for just one thing, something it seems everybody has conveniently forgotten. Barack Obama is a politician! Oh that!

OK, now we can look at how he actually became the center of the existing universe.
Let’s be honest here.

* He made a moving speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. And I must say, I was moved.

* We like him, he’s inspirational, and seems like a good guy.

* He’s young, handsome, and photogenic. We live in a youth and looks worshiping culture.

* 18 year old kids who consider Brittany Spears and Paris Hilton cultural icons of influence are able to vote. They were sold the image of Barack Obama in the same way they’ve been sold the images of pop stars and starlets. What demographic do you think makes up the preponderance of users of MySpace and YouTube?

* Running themes in movies, and on TV, for the past ten or fifteen years have been promoting ‘blackness’ as special, spiritual, wise etc. Does that sound like a description of Obama? Hispanics have, for about the past five years, been promoted the same way. Whites are being portrayed as ignorant, passé, irrelevant, inconsequential. Choose your own adjective. There is a bourgeoning culture of white self-loathing taking hold around the country. If you haven’t noticed, you haven’t actually been paying attention. In fact the hierarchy now goes something like this. Young is better than old. Black/brown is better than white. Female is better than male. Gay is better than straight. Gay/white may be better than black, but that’s still kind of a toss-up right now. OK, you can say that’s not really happening, or that Hollywood is just trying to level the playing field, but I say Hollywood is intentionally manipulating the perceptions of the young. Hollywood, like the music industry, is always looking to grab the dollar of any rising demographic. Every dollar it can, and why not help the process along to get the bucks a little quicker?

* Hollywood ordained Barack as meeting five of their primary criteria, young/black/photogenic, liberal, and of course, Hollywood friendly. Stay with me now.

* The media not only blatantly ordained Barack (Twelve covers of Time Magazine in the past year), but also actively promoted him, repressed harmful information about him, and gave him a free pass on his own history and voting record. You can argue about that, but you won’t actually even believe your own argument. The press also likes the idea of a president who likes the press.
Like John McCain ever had a chance!

OK, still with me? It gets touchy now. Hang on to your ideology.

* We like the idea of a president with a ‘Muslim’ name. Would help us feel good about ourselves again. Alleviate the guilt of our killing all those Muslims over in Iraq and Afghanistan. And would poke a stick in the eye of all those stupid white guys who insisted that we do it. Ouch.

* We like the idea of a black man as President. Would help us feel good about ourselves again. Alleviate the guilt of our having enslaved and repressed so many of them for so many years. And would poke a stick in the eye of all the stupid white guys who won’t take personal responsibility today for the actions of some other white guys that they never knew.
The problem here is that Obama’s election is going to put the race-baiting bigots like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Jeremiah Wright out of work. Although they will probably still say that America would never elect a ‘real’ black man.

* Obama was deemed, from early on, as highly marketable, more marketable than any President before him, and, most likely, more marketable than any other person in the world. A lot of money to be made off this guy (possibly the primary reason he was so heavily promoted). Can anybody honestly argue with that motivation?

Well, there you have it folks, the confluence of circumstances that gave us the 44th President of the United States. You may see it differently, although I don’t see how that is possible. Smile.
But, even though Barack was an unremarkable Senator, I am not one to reject his value to the country based on his having been ushered into the Office on a red carpet. With scattered roses, no less. As I’ve already said, I like him. I want him to do well. I think he is, and will be, really good for ths country. He does inspire hope in people, young people especially. That can be a remarkable achievement in, and of, itself. I will support him, and his policies, as best I can. Unlike the example of the Bush haters of the past eight years, who are, I believe, most responsible for dividing our country like dirty laundry, then tearing it apart (The age old 'divide and conquer' strategy), I’m hoping that conservatives will not follow in their reprehensible footsteps. I’m hoping they will give Barack a chance, support his efforts, his vision, and his intentions to heal this nation from its own self-loathing. I know I will.

I will not, however, ever forget that Barack Obama, American Idol, is a politician. I hope you won’t either.
But I am gonna get me one of those cool lamp shades.