Tuesday, March 18, 2008

racism peek-a-boo

Thanks to Sarah over at Trying to Grok for posting this link - a piece about Barack Obama's appeal as "all of us", but rather insightfully pointing out that that also makes him none of us:

There is no Barack Obama. Everyone who meets him makes up their own version of him. He is an outstanding orator because he has learned to read the desire of those around him about who they want him to be and then to reflect and fulfill that desire. It has worked for him every step of the way until now. . . .

He has been too many things to too many different people. But all those people expect to see what they're expecting to see every time, and it's no longer possible in the simultaneous pressures of a presidential campaign. Even he doesn't know how different he is from venue to venue and person to person. . . .

From first to last, he's always been an outsider.
I think this is what I was trying to get at to when I started to grapple with feeling uncomfortable with Obama's Grandma. . . .

It's not that I have a problem with Obama's Grandma's colour, clothing or language per se. The problem I have is one of otherness - which she so vividly points out - in a situation where the goal is to elect a president who is representative of the electorate.

Are we really so diverse - and divided - that our only recourse is to elect someone who is ultimately like none of us? Worse, are we so easily hoodwinked by catchphrases that we don't notice?

I guess so. We've been basting for several years now in ad campaigns urging us to BELIEVE - no mention of WHAT to believe IN. The first one I was aware of was in Ireland - early 2002 I think it was - when Guinness-coloured billboards bearing only that word started appearing on the streets. Sometime thereafter, Guinness associated itself with "believing" and "impossible" athletic feats, with no detour of logic first required.

Don't get me wrong: I like Guinness. But I don't think that drinking it will make me heroic. Neither will buying the next product to usurp the tag: video game Halo 3. But at least Halo 3 tells us what it is necessary to believe:
A hero is more than a person, a hero is a belief. A belief that, against impossible odds, the world can be saved—and that the world is still worth saving. Heroes inspire that belief in us. They renew our faith and give us that most precious of all gifts—hope. The world needs heroes. That's why, when a true hero arrives, the world will honor him.
Obama promises us Change We Can Believe In. Great. What if that change isn't so "good"? What if it requires me to change into something I'm not? What if it changes me into the "enemy", for example, and those I have not agreed with - even if not formal enemies - into the so-called "good guys"?

This is all sounding very Nietzschian. You know, the: up is down; white is black; bad is good; rich is poor; you are me. . . . And: 'It's all "relative", don't you know'.

I don't like it. If that makes me a rascist - sorry! I actually believe in difference - although certainly some differences are more important than others. But you know what? I am not you; you are not me. You and I will never come a complete "WE" - there's always a bit left out. A bit that doesn't quite blend in.

Maybe we could spend a little more time looking at what it is we're undertaking - what change we aspire to - rather than whipping up the lemmings for a long, blind walk off a quick cliff.

When push comes to shove, just who is it that Obama thinks he "represents"? In a way, maybe he represents that bit in all of us that doesn't blend in, but desperately wishes it did. The Outsider.

But maybe not for President. . . .

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