Thursday, January 22, 2009

Oprahfication of Obama

If you read one article today about Obama, read this one by Kathryn Lofton... read the whole thing.   An excerpt:

First, you need a name.  Not just any name.  A weird name: a Biblical misspelling, maybe, or an invocation of some distant land.  No matter what: the name needs an O.  The O will come in handy when you need to summon a common sphere, encourage chanting, or design a gentle logo.  Never deny the utility of its replication, never avoid its allusion, and never miss a moment for its branding.  An O is a space anyone can fill with anything.


You will possess a preternatural ability to give people what they want, to know what they need, to sell what they will buy.  Prepare yourself for this.  You have to get over any anxieties about your own assimilation, incorporation, and amalgamation.  Be the commodity.  Put your O everywhere.  Your iconography is how you brace against the disappointments of your humanity.


You are, as everyone knows, a Protestant.  But you dabble in everything, shying not away from the Koran or kabbalah, Jewish professors or Eastern spiritual advisers.  You will entertain anything that might embolden your O.  You are the ambiguity of your epoch, the middle that makes the mass, the crossroads of a country that excited your youth, raped your ancestral continent, and claps now for your children.  You are a global distribution suffused with spiritual truth.  You are motivated with missionary zeal to convert everyone, unrelentingly, to change.  You make them believe their best lives are yet to come.  You make it impossible to look away, to hate, to dissent, or to change the channel.  You make us feel good, finally.  You are our redemption.  You are our favorite smile. And you are our satisfaction at the possibility of a secular that made it all so.

My take:  Any person who attains such high office must have an element of celebrity which smacks of gimick; they've all had it and previously the gimick has been divisive while Obama's has been inclusive.  This marketing of sorts has been Obama's advantage so far, but can also become his undoing if he is unable to fulfill the persona that has been created.  While I give President Obama high marks for his successful candidacy and the positive atmosphere that has imbued his campaign, at the end of the day the presidency is-- pardon the cliche-- a highly demanding job that will entail certain failures and sometimes success, even with the most well-meaning and capable people in the position.

Granted, the last eight years have been disastrous largely because of the incompetence of the chief executive who inherited every advantage yet squandered them all, but Obama's intelligence and charisma and competence hardly guarantee success.  Hope is but a word, and the work ahead looks daunting.  If this mess can indeed be fixed, it will take all of us... in addition to great leadership.

And by all appearances, this leadership, nascent as it is, seems the greatest of my lifetime.

(h/t WW)

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