Barack Obama and Hero Worship: The Second Coming—to Copenhagen?

President Barack Obama has this seemingly ridiculous mesmerizing effect on an awful lot of people, doesn’t he? And I’m the first to admit that I’m not immune. And yet those who have vested so much hope in his very presence at an issue, like with health care reform, can find themselves, at the end, disillusioned (when the complexities and intractable politics assert themselves). They might even find their adoration turned to hate and resentment—the resentment of the disappointed lover. Barack Obama was supposed to save us!

And here’s the latest manifestation of this curious phenomenon. I saw something comic—absurd, really—at the end of a Politico report today on the global warming talks in Copenhagen: the arrival of Barack Obama’s plane:

Danes monitored the progress of Obama’s arrival obsessively, with cabbies craning at dashboard TV sets to monitor the approach of Air Force One from distant dot to Obama’s arrival.

Of course, the ugly Nixonian right in America hates this kind of Obama glamour. I think, however, that it is a deep human need to visually embody hope—and Obama seems to have done something miraculous: a black man has landed in the American presidency by an electoral landslide scarcely more than 40 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King. Even the snarly Papa Bear, Bill O’Reilly, earlier this year, seemed to swoon a bit:

What he has achieved in his 48 years is simply astounding. Consider the odds. The United States is a nation of more than 300 million citizens. Only one person is currently the Commander in Chief. That man had no fatherly guidance, is of mixed race, and had no family connections to guide him into the world of national politics. That adds up to one simple truth that every American child should be told: ‘If Barack Obama can become the President of the United States, then whatever dream you may have can happen in your life.’

And this means that the aesthetic has bled into the political. Barack Obama is a visual symbol of hope to the world—the Icon in Chief in an iconic age. We’ll soon see if his magic works in Copenhagen, but if he comes home empty handed, what can one say? Don’t trust in man, trust in God?

How about this: you can’t outsource your thinking, your reasoning, and your responsibility for the world to anybody—not to God, not to anybody. Not even Barack Obama.

But I still love the man. This isn’t me, by the way:

But this is a caution:

I suppose that, after eight years of Barack Obama (I presume he’ll win reelection) that the world will have a maturer relation to him at the end, and will have grown up a bit more politically.

Or they’ll start looking for another Messiah. Hope springs eternal, as does irrationality.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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