Wish I'd Said It

Weeds are flowers too - once you get to know them.

- A. A. Milne

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Barack Obamania (#180)

I used to be a political junkie - an American political junkie - which, as a toque-wearing Canuck should’ve fostered at least a hint of shame but didn’t. I was young and idealistic in the late 60s and early 70s. Like most young folks, I leaned left politically. I was hoping for a McGovern miracle. Got Watergate. As one of my favourite writers* of the day would say: “And so it goes.”

In retrospect, that’s probably when the hazy veil of peace/love/dope began to part, revealing that scourge of young people everywhere and everywhen – reality. Ouch. Time to grow up. There isn’t always a happy ending. A smart person isn’t necessarily an ethical one. (That one stung.) Anyway, I grew up and as I did, I grew away from American politics. When the world didn’t end with Reagan’s election, I figured I could safely step back.

Flash forward a generation-plus. Barack Obama is facing off against John McCain. Black vs white. Ok. Make that tan vs florid. I don’t much care but Son #1 is captivated. Early on, he becomes a rabid Obama acolyte. He loudly, and often, berates me for my jaded indifference. He forgets, or doesn’t care, that I was around for Beatlemania and Trudeaumania. Barack Obamania is moderately interesting, but in a been-there, done-that kind of a way.

When Sarah Palin is announced as McCain’s running mate, I thought it a masterstroke. With Hillary’s reluctant, resentful release of her electoral reins, I thought Palin would appeal to disaffected Clintonites. Then I heard her speak and knew Obama’s coronation was assured.

Tonight was the election. I tuned in to the Comedy Channel’s broadcast at 10, being a Stephen Colbert fan. (I can tolerate Jon Stewart if I read the paper while he’s talking.)

By then, on account of Son #1 running downstairs every 1.3 minutes to announce CNN’s latest incantation, I knew which way the wind was blowing. Obama was going to be President elect of the United States of America. It was confirmed around 11 o’clock. Which is when I really begin to focus on what I am seeing on my television.

I see a humble, tired, and very gracious John McCain offering congratulations and cooperation to Barack Obama.

Then I see Obama and listen to him for the first time.

Oh yeah. This guy’s got It. He can move mountains with his voice alone. I envision a second, milk-chocolatey, American Camelot. Michelle projects intelligence, grace and power. Both of them, husband and wife, put me in mind of cats. They are lithe and sleek. They kiss and entwine fingers after his soaring acceptance speech and I read her lips saying “I love you” and I can almost hear them both purr. I realize I’ve been spellbound. Like a majority of Americans and idealistic people from around the world - I recognize the magic that is his. That is theirs.

And I wonder. I wonder if maybe this skinny guy from Illinois can make the same kind of impression on his people as that other skinny guy from Illinois did. Obama himself drew that Lincolnesque comparison.

He can certainly move a crowd. He projects and instills an evangelical fervor. The camera is forever zooming in on tear-stained, chanting faces. Just like the ones I remember from those Beatles’ concerts and those Trudeau appearances.

Obama stops speaking and the next several minutes are filled with a slow procession of running mates and extended family onto the stage. Hugs and kisses abound. Black embraces white and vice versa and the symbolism fairly shouts. I become aware of the music and focus, for the first time, on the production aspects of what I’m experiencing.

I’m particularly struck by the music. It is a seemingly endless series of crescendos - rising and swelling in majestic waves - buoying the emotions of the crowd.

It is powerful. I realize this is a man who has mastered media. Or his handlers have. Doesn’t matter really. He is a force.

I’m a lucky guy. I live in interesting times.

And I think American politics have become intriguing again.

*Kurt Vonnegut. But you knew that.


Sally said...

Hi Frank, here in the UK I'm experiencing similar thoughts and emotions. Sort of thrilled, but ... reminded of how we felt watching the landslide victory that put Blair in and looking back at that time through the disappointment of the following years. I really hope Obama half lives up to US folks' expectations. By the way, although I haven't posted comments recently due to hectic times, I still read every entry with great pleasure!

Leah J. Utas said...

The world is currently a very exciting place. Yay!
I was too young to experience Beatlemania though I remember it. I recall Trudeaumania as well. I trust your take on how this stacks up.
Meanwhile, that other senator from Illinois had a pretty good track record. I think this new one is will do well.

Reb said...

Hehe, tan vs florid! I certainly hope he fulfills his potential too. I also hope that the SS are more prepared than they have ever been before.

Carrien said...

As a fellow Canadian living in the US I personally have to say that I feel a little nauseous.

But then, I never really expected him to deliver on half of the things he promised, so maybe we'll survive his presidency without much damage.

But Americans will be disappointed, the woman who said on national television that because of him she doesn't have to worry about her mortgage or gas prices anymore is still going to have to do both of those things tomorrow. There is no way he can live up to the hype.

It kind of reminds me of the way people in South Africa started showing up at stores demanding their free appliance, ( forget what it was) because their candidate had said that he wanted every one to have one while campaigning. They actually believed he meant it literally.

I truly thought that the American voter was more sophisticated than that but I guess I was wrong.

Frank Baron said...

Hi Maud. I think Obama's got an uphill battle meeting those expectations too. (But most politicians have a way of lowering people's expectations to a more modest level.)

Hope life is settling down some for you now. Thanks for taking the time to drop me a line. :)

Leah, I hope you're right. He certainly seems to have at least some of the tools necessary to succeed as a leader. I have a hunch his mettle will be tested early and often.

Yeah, Reb. The sad reality is his stage was surrounded by six feet of bulletproof glass. Hope we never see the like of that up here.

Carrien, history will judge the wisdom, if not the sophistication, of the American voter. There's no doubt some voters' expectations were/are unrealistic. But what politician hasn't promised something resembling a Nirvana if only the people would toss votes their way?

Thanks for the visit and the note. Both are appreciated. :)

Nita said...

Hi Frank, Like Maud was it? I read your posts with regularity. In fact I read yours better than I post my own. Living in the US, I found this election actually interesting, which is more than I can say about the last couple. I don't know how Obabma will do, but I do think it will be an interesting four years.

Dianne said...

this is the first time in a long time that I've felt idealistic without also feeling silly and old

I agree that there are those who have unrealistic expectations of Obama but to some degree it is like being released from a hostage crisis. everything just seems so wonderful

he will manage expectations and he will communicate clearly

Frank Baron said...

Nita, I agree. Thanks for the visit. :)

Enjoy the feeling Dianne. I hope it lasts. :)

Anonymous said...

The very fact that Obama is good with the media should give you a clue. But then there are those who believe the controlling, manipulative presentations (basically on tv) to be reality. It ain't. It's all a big show, designed to entertain and manipulate. How very naive, sir.

Frank Baron said...

I've been called lots worse, anon. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. :)

Anonymous said...

My comment wasn't intended to insult but merely a personal, opinionated observation. I find it more satisfying to think for myself than to have the media, or anyone else, succeed in manipulating my thoughts into beliefs comfortably held by the masses.

slinnell said...

Well put. As a Canadian in America for these festivities it’s nice to get a perspective from up north (or I guess west from here). I've since printed it and shown some colleagues, and I think they appreciate the perspective too. Lookin forward to seein ya (whenever that happens)

Frank Baron said...

I used to be an iconoclast too Anon. But then I realized I could save on brain cells by letting the media do my thinking for me. Life has been ever so much more relaxing since then.

Hello Nephew. Good to "see" you. Hope you're settling in well. I imagine you'll at least be home for Christmas, right? Thanks for the visit and for pimping my column. Any of your colleagues fish? ;)

Anonymous said...

I imagine soaking up words like "iconoclast" used up your cells to some extent. You betray yourself by using them.
Enjoy your group life. :)

Frank Baron said...

I will Lor. Thanks for the multiple visits. :)

Country Girl said...

You have managed to capture my exact sentiments about this campaign. I don't have the finesse that you are gifted with for the english language, but you captured it exactly right here.

A masterstroke on McCain's part, until I heard her speak, and I felt in my heart then that Obama could win this.

And so it goes.

Frank Baron said...

Indeed it does CG. And thanks for the kind words. :)

Matt said...

These comments were a lot more entertaining than I expected they would be when I first clicked on them.

I am cautiously optimistic, which is a lot more than I've been in eight years. We'll see how he does.

Kappa no He said...

Not as funny as Lincoln. Lincoln was a hoot. But I like the guy. I really like the guy. Gorgeous kids, too.

So, who was your favorite Beatle, btw? Now, there is something I wish I could have witnessed first hand.

The book came! I love it. A ton of information. Soon I'll be able to impress my father-in-law, like woa.

Frank Baron said...

Thanks Matt. I've learned to keep my reader's expectations low. That way, I occasionally surprise 'em. ;)

Terrie, George was hands-down my favourite Beatle. But it was my sister who braved the concerts and came back, hours later, still sobbing from the intensity of the experience. Or something. Hormones probably. She was 13 and in love with Paul.

Glad the book arrived and hope you enjoy it. Drop me a line at frank(at)frankbaron.com with your snail mail addy and I'll get that bookplate out to you. :)

Sally said...

The only thing that makes me just a teensy bit sad is that we'll no longer have Mr Bush's hilariously bad grammar to entertain us. Oh well ... win some, lose some.

Stace said...

Kurt Vonnegut?! I was thinking Billy Joel.

Frank Baron said...

Maud, the comedians will find some aspect of Obama's persona to mock. I have faith. ;)

Stace, you're so...so...so under 30! ;)

Michelle H. said...

LOL! Tan vs florid, I could not stop laughing about it.

Nice blog, and an interesting perspective. Something to muse over. I'm coming back for more readings.

Frank Baron said...

Thanks mlh. I appreciate it. :)

Ray Veen said...

I missed the acceptance speech, so thanks for your description. It really put me there.

Been writing much lately?

Frank Baron said...

Hiya BPV. And nope, not as much as I should. Thanks a LOT for the extra helping of guilt. ;)

MagnoliaGirl said...

Well, I'm getting here late...but count me in the Obama fan club, or as my mama pronounces it, "O-BAMA", as in Ala-Bama, ha!

He's getting the job at an awful time and his challenges are enormous; but I'm glad he's young and sleek and determined and maybe a bit idealistic, but I, and a think a few million more, can benefit from his ways.

Not to mention, I believe it can only help in the racial equation.

Time will tell, but he's there now, and no matter one's leanings, it's time to support the guy!

Does anyone else think he looks a little like Count Choc-ula?

Chi said...

Nice post, Frank. Obama's definitely a showman. I'm most interested to see what he delivers on his mantra of change. These are indeed interesting times we live in.

Othmar Vohringer said...

Great post Frank. I watched a bit of the American election and when Palin started to speak I thought finally a politician with both feet firmly on the ground and placed in reality. I like her and most of what she stands for. Of course as hunterand fisher I was particularly pleased that she did not try to hide that important part of our North American heritage as so many politicians do these days.

Then Obama stepped up a notch and put on a show that would have made B.T. Barnum, the master of humbug, envious. Obama became president elect and I came to the realization that Americans still seem to prefer a goodLas Vegas stile show and entertainment more than reality.

I am not holding my breath in anticipation of the self pcoclaimed semi God Obama and his healing thouch. I wish the Americans, many of which are my good friends, the best of luck. They’re going to need every ounce of it for the next four years.


Frank Baron said...

MG, I hope the folks who are anti-Obama will take a wait n' see approach. He's sure inheriting a full plate of trouble and I wish him well.

Thanks Christopha. Yep, methinks we're in for a roller coaster ride over the next year or three.

Othmar, I'd sure love to have a hunter/angler inhabiting the White House (if that person was otherwise equipped to run a country as well). But there was one in Dick Cheney and we know what happened to his hunting companion.... ;)

Bruce Robinson said...

Candidate Obama promised us that his win would make the oceans recede. Do you think he had them confused with the stock market?

Oops! I got confused, thinking I was responding to a political blog like GOPinionPlus.blogspot.com.

This blog is way too good for discussions of politics. this a place for peaceful walks, beautiful vistas, and human and humane insights that cause readers to feel comfortably amused.

On the other hand, it did stir the troops.

Frank Baron said...

Bruce, I promise I'll stick to your preferred programming most of the time. Thanks for the visit.

Anonymous said...

Hi Frank, as a first time visitor to your blog I am very impressed. It's interesting how we find each other on the net. You commented on my Skywatch Friday post and I came over to visit.

I find your writing very pleasing to read. You seem to be honest and forthright in your opinions. A rarity these days.

So I found your post on Obama and the American election and, of course, I had to read it. Well Frank, you summed up my thoughts on the matter perfectly.

I think Obama will be a force for UNITY in the world and I believe that is what we need. Especially right now with all of the problems we face. I believe he knows how to listen and consider carefully. Something the last president lacked.

The other thing that impresses me about you Frank? The way you handle your reader's comments. You are very kind, even to folks like Anonymous who most bloggers would simply remove. Your "I used to be an iconoclast too" answer had me rolling in the aisle.

I'm glad I found you. I shall return when I have more time. Thanks for the read.

Frank Baron said...

Larry, I'd be embarrassed at your kind words if they weren't so darn true!


Hehehe. Seriously, thank you very much. It's always a pleasure to hear someone enjoys my jottings. Hope you're having a great Thanksgiving weekend.