Topical Tuesday: President Obama

I didn’t post about our new president around the election or the inauguration because, well, because I just didn’t want to. It’s my blog, dammit. Now, however, with the man in office, I’ll expound a bit on what I think about the whole thing in this second installment of Topical Tuesday.

First of all, in the interest of full disclosure, I did vote for Obama. I like John McCain as much as I like any Republican, I suppose, and was sorry to see him lose, but not sorry enough to vote for him, even in this “reddest state in the country”. I had hoped he would have emerged as the GOP candidate in 2000 ahead of that wonderful orator we ended up with, but we can’t have everything, can we?

Barack Obama is a lot of things. Most of those things have already been beaten into the ground by the press until we are tired of hearing about them, so I’ll try to steer clear of those old chestnuts and look at things from a different perspective. For example, out of all the candidates available, even during the primaries, I believe that Barack Obama represents most closely what America is. We, as a nation, are not what we would like to be nor what we tell others we are. We like to think of ourselves as hard-working, success-driven, world-leading patriots who deserve the respect (and, in some cases, obedience) of other nations everywhere.

That is not who we are. Sorry, it’s just not true. What we are, my fellow Americans, is the world’s reality television show.

In this week’s episode, the country is turned upside down when a black man is elected President . . . .

We are not the nation we were fifty or a hundred years ago. We are now a country of flash and glitter, of sitcoms and microwave popcorn, of staggering obesity and decadent forms of entertainment that has become our chief export. People overseas may not purchase American-made cars, but they’ll sure watch dubbed episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. We have lost a great deal of our substance in our worship of the glass tit and our constant struggle to stay above the waters of depression.

What does this have to do with Barack Obama, you ask? Everything. Obama is the iconic American, the image of ourselves we would like to see in the mirror. He is well-spoken. He is successful. He is intelligent. He can hit a jump shot. In short, he is everything we would like to be–would be–if not for our increasing dependence on McDonald’s and Xbox and American Idol. Obama got the job, not because he was the most qualified, but because he most represents the identity we want as a nation. He is another figure on television for us to live our vicarious lives through while we sit on our sofas eating potato chips and loathing ourselves. Through this shining new example of the democratic system, we can quiet those voices in our heads telling us that we are losing our collective grip on our rightful place atop the world order.

We value this country as a land of equal opportunity and this election has proved that ideal. A hundred years ago, the idea of a black man becoming President was as laughable as the idea of half our children being obese and a larger emphasis being put on leading the world in entertainment rather than in math and science. It is truly an era of revelation!

I believe that people tend to receive the leadership they deserve and I hope we are better than we have been lately. I hope we have chosen wisely. He is certainly a better choice than who we had for the past eight years. Obama exemplifies another American ideal–the greater the risk, the greater the reward–and I hope by risking so much on him that we reap a reward greater than we have earned in recent years. If not, then the flash and glitter that has us so hypnotized will extend to the White House and we will fall deeper into our current role as the court jester of nations.

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About Lee Smiley

I write things. Maybe you'll read them.
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