Monday, January 4, 2010

This Modern Life

I was going to use this photo to show Our Tired President....


But then I found this Photoshopped masterpiece. 

There are two aspects of Modern Life that may be unique in human history.  One is the brain-bending array of choices available to us, choices that act as a sort of spiritual curare, stealthily and surely paralyzing us, a nation glassy-eyed and slack-jawed, fingering the remote control, our few and precious mortal hours spent on "Lingo" and "Iron Chef: AMERICA!" and The National Football League.  

The other is our penchant for the Pointless Display of Moral Outrage.  When the Russian tanks rolled into Warsaw in December 1981, millions of Polish Americans donned red ribbons and "Solidarnosc" pins as a show of support for the motherland.  We did this -- for I was one of the Ribboned Masses -- at zero risk to ourselves.  All the heavy lifting was being done six thousand miles away.  It made us feel good, though, made us feel as if we were on the battlements, fighting the Good Fight.

Cross these streams, and you end up with something like the curious case of Barack Obama.  I did not vote for Mister Obama, partly out of a deep distrust of both his meteoric rise to prominence -- he's the political equivalent of a bag of microwave popcorn, completely ready for consumption before the "Coming Attractions" portion of the DVD is finished -- and of his Illinois roots.  Illinois, like her sisters in corruption Louisiana and New Jersey, is a badly rotten plank on the ship of state, slimy and wormy and well eaten through. It is hard to envision anything so clean and pure and perfect as the Man of Hope coming from such fetidness.  

Distrust of the image was part of it.  Sheer perversity was the other.  I voted for the train wreck, the crazy old man and the coyote killer, just because it would have been wild and weird to see the havoc they two together could wreak.  Plus, our polling precinct is heavily, almost exclusively Democrat and Latin, Asian, or African-American.  Obama garnered something like 97 percent of the vote here, and I like to be different.

Back to Barack.  The more I see of him, the more I like him.  

The election made me a little sick, the Obama as Che Guervarra posters and the smirking Mrs. Obama and the strange Clash of the Titans meets The Fortress of Solitude stage dressing at the Democratic National Convention, as if Mr. Obama had not been born in Hawai'i or even Kenya, but somplace really keen, like Mount Olympus, or Krypton Community Hospital.  The low point was when the widow of Medgar Evars appeared on the tube, stating that a photo of basketball playing Barack, stretching for a layup during a pickup game, reminded her of Jesus: he floated in air, the world (in this case, an orange planet with "SPAULDING" stamped into it) cradled safely in his hands.  To be fair, Mrs. Evars may have been attempting a little Karmic alignment, her Obama as Messiah rhetoric an effort to counterbalance the nuts on the right who insist that Obama is the Antichrist, but that's probably giving her too much credit.

So we're a year in, and even with my strong predisposition to distrust and dislike him, Obama is growing on me.  I like that every day he looks a bit more like football coach turned teevee analyist Tony Dungy, all gray haired and bony (the difference, of course, is that Coach Dungy carries a stress-free, almost serene countenance, while the President often seems Close To The Edge).  I like the courage he showed in his Nobel acceptance speech.  I like the way he has changed goals and expectations as he has assumed the responsibilities of the office.  He's a realist, a pragmatist, and after eight years in Cloudcuckooland, we need that.

The thing is, the people who elected him don't see it that way.  His approval ratings are sinking faster than Joe Frazier at a swim meet (anyone under the age of 45 who has never seen the footage of Joe Frazier at "The Superstars" competition won't get that.  Trust me, it's hilarious.)  Check out the leftist blogs, websites and radio shows.  They hate the guy.

I know why Obama has been such a crushing disappointment to his supporters.  This is Casino America, where all you do is pull a lever, and a magic machine spits out mountains of nickels.  No problem takes longer than 22 minutes to resolve.  He's taking the Sensible Weight Loss view -- it took years to get to where we are; the only way to get back to normal is Eating Right and Exercise and Slow Steady Progress -- and we want Mexican diet pills and Weight Loss Miracles!

We need a new Mount Rushmore, featuring the faces of our new ethos: Ronald Reagan, who convinced us that we are strong and wise and wonderful, no matter how weak and stupid and awful we might be; Oprah Winfrey, who taught us that everything is part of the public record, and that pursuit of personal needs is the most noble human endeavor; Hugh Hefner, who showed us that if you use words like "empowerment" and "liberation" and "rejecting Puritanism" often enough, you can infantilze sex and reduce women to blonde, plucked, pneumatically enhanced toys all you want; and Oral Roberts, who reinvented Christianity as a series of parlor tricks, performed to a mass television audience, and reimagined the Savior as a 900 foot tall mob enforcer, poised to rub you out if you don't give Him the requisite protection money.

So Obama enters the cesspool left behind by The Worst Administration in History, and tells us, "Draining this mess is going to take longer than we thought, and it's going to take some sacrifice from all of us," and his reasoned, rational supporters respond with head shaking and finger pointing and great steaming piles of criticism.

I am still not completely sold on Mister Obama.  But he's our president, the only one we have, and I for one am prepared to do more than wear a red ribbon to show my support.  And that includes being patient.

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