Wednesday, April 8, 2009


by Armadillo Joe

Atrios is a master of the infectious catch-phrase which, in just a few choice words, can circumscribe a whole larger issue and create a useful shorthand for people who are tuned-in to the discussion over the long haul, basically an internal slang or jargon. My latest favorite is, as many of you know, SUPERTRAINS!, but he has others that also become more humorous by repetition. "Document the Atrocities" as a heading for his weekly run-down of the lineups of each Sunday morning's bobblehead shoutfests is funny by (slight) overstatement and "Deep Thought" -- while obviously lifted from the old 90's era SNL skit -- is still funny in that what he posts under it is almost never very deep at first glance, but is always revealing of a darker reality in that snarky way that makes one reconsider their own underlying assumptions and also sneer at the foolish who made the mistake of adopting such assumptions in the first place. Which is what good political (and polemical) humor should do.

The most recent phrase of his that is catching on with all the wannabe Kewl Kidz -- or with me, at least, and soon with others I have no doubt -- is "Hopey, Changey", a riff on Colbert's "Truthiness" and a direct attack on the image of Obama that we all voted for versus the grim reality becoming clearer with every centrist, capitulating, accomodationist move he makes. Whether the banks, the Pentagon or the recent Justice Department decision, just to name a few, he has not yet taken any of the really bold steps we progressives hoped he would when we came to support him, but he has certainly made some very clear moves to make us question who's side he's really on. Some of his defenders will chalk up his concessions to The Reich-Wing as yet another stealthy move in an orante clash of political gamesmanship, a chess-match, his Kung-Fu being unorthodox, but effective. They will argue that he is a victim of Bismark's old saw about politics being the art of the possible, and that he is doing the best he can under extremely difficult circumstances with mighty forces of epic greed and entrenched power ranged against him and that at the end of the day he is just one man and one man can only do so much.

I cannot abide such excuses, though. So far, this is not what I voted for.

However, I cannot align myself with the Washington chattering classes who seem so quick to condemn his presidency as already having failed because he hasn't cured cancer, solved the riddle of the sphinx and brought about world peace forever and ever within his first 100 Days, amen. Those clucking tongues on the Sunday morning talk shows are little more than historical blips, mere gossips hardly consequential to present day much less humankind or The Ages, and history will soon forget them as completely as it forgets the poison tongues of the scolds in the king's court at Versailles, who -- when they are remembered at all -- are recalled only as the height of daft frivolity.

No, despite their carping, I think Obama still has promise simply because, well, I have to. The crystal ball is cloudy, though, and I do think Obama guilty of willfully allowing a mis-perception of his commitment to our lefty vision of America to aid his rise to prominence. I have had a gnawing fear from the time he became the anti-war candidate of choice that he was playing us, "us" being the dyed-in-the-wool lefties and assorted DFH's who hated George W. Bush with the searing passion of a thousand suns because Dubya symbolized everything we hated about our country: the gleeful and willful ignorance, the faux-cowboy "common-man" swagger disguising a true East Coast blue-blood's contempt for "The People", the frat-boy bravado marketed as "charm", the mean-spirited jingoistic stupidity passed off as the One True God of Patriotism, the haughty assumption of American exceptionalism used to sell to the rubes the idea of a protected status for a Ruling Class accustomed to inherited wealth and privilege and the abuses of power that flourish in that rancid culture, the inbred and self-absorbed obtuseness of that privileged class, the brittle Christopathic sanctimony parading as moral superiority...

I could go on, but you get the idea.

Barack Hussein Obama was supposed to be the opposite of all that, the antidote to all that ugliness in the American soul, a one-man redemption tale for a vast and powerful nation both sacred and profane from her humble, violent origins to her highest, most sublime ambitions. He was walking, talking proof to the world -- non-white, urbane, educated and eloquent proof -- that we are not all those people (and you know what I mean) that we are not all those gun-toting, Bible-thumping, inbred, hairy-knuckled, toothless, Dixie flag-waving NASCAR goobers stupid enough to vote for an alcoholic chimpanzee who thinks he talks to god and his Evil Uncle Dick(head)...

...on purpose.


...and yet...

...and yet...

And yet, it is hard not to have that gnawing fear bubble up to the surface of having been suckered by a charming chameleon, the sense that all that Hope and Change stuff was really more Hopey and Changey because he looked so different and sounded so different (straight out of Liberal Central Casting), that maybe, just maybe (I can't believe I'm even typing this) over here on the left side of the dial, our popular image of Barack Obama is as much a projection of our own bleeding heart dreams, our own collective moon-bat aspirations for the country we live in, as unrooted in the reality of the man as were the drooling jebus-freaks' collective washing of the sins of George W. Bush.

If Barack Obama were white and named Barney Oswalt from Illinois and running for office twenty years ago, espousing the exact same positions he does now, he would have been a nameless, vaguely right-of-center Republican with a smattering of liberal positions to assuage his urban constituency and otherwise mired in the anonymous middle of the Reagan coalition.

His casting as a Left Wing Matinee Idol reveals both just how far to the right our nation has devolved since the dark days of Saint Ronnie's Reign of Terror and just how obsessed we have been and remain to this very day with pigmentation vis a vis ancestry. He's black with a funny name, therefore -- in our popularly defined bounds of public discourse -- any pronounced position by Mr. Obama to the left of Attila the Hun makes him a DFH, or sympathetic to the DFH's, which is worse because it means he's willing to turn Jesus' America over to the queers and the uppity wimmin-folk and the nigras and the mooz-luhms and all those scary hippies. Which is why anybody in the GOP with skin slightly darker than week-old milk has to take social and political positions that make Marie Antoinette look like a bleeding-heart.

This DFH can't truck with all of that, though. I like Barack Obama, sometimes I truly love him in a teary-eyed, almost worshipful way -- for instance this past week as he and Michelle represented my country, MY country on the global stage -- because he is the image I want to project to the world; he is a living, breathing symbol of that miscengenating, multi-culti, caramel-colored America I believe in, that American ideal I believe we should and could achieve, or I wouldn't be a liberal. Except that I also see that Obama is frail and human and as much as I hope we are witnessing Obama Kung-Fu with his bank bailout end-runs on behalf of the banksters, his expansion of the Pentagon budget (not the reduction that got sold to the press) and -- worst of all -- his reluctance (and, frankly, I predict his eventual failure) to not only not pursue the Bush Administration for its crimes, but his Justice Department's continuation of the crimes themselves makes me realize that we have in him not only an eloquent, handsome and charming symbol of the promise of America, but of her essential corruption, too.

I'll get over it, I'm sure. Today, however, I am sad.

1 comment:

Matt Osborne said...

The ship of state takes a long time to turn around. It takes even longer when the crew has gotten into bad habits -- just look at the way Congress has begun to slow down work already. So I say we give Obama the whole four years before we call him the new LBJ.