Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mental Case File

A few liberal friends have pitied me in the past few days, wondering why I won't surrender to the general national ecstasy. They know deep down that I want to, but ego, stubbornness, and brand identification are holding me back. I'm a contrarian for contrarian's sake, or worse, an ultra-lefty who won't settle for anything less than immediate revolution.

Do I really give off that vibe?

It's true that I lean "left" on most issues, whatever or wherever "left" happens to be in 2009 America. But I don't see myself as ultra-anything, and certainly not as a card-carrying contrarian. Revolution? Here, today, now? Even if that were possible, I doubt I would sign up. I'd probably look for some place to hide. Given the lay of the land, the vast political ignorance, the atomized emotions and embrace of the fables and myths that feed American exceptionalism, plus millions of guns, any "revolution" would doubtless be a serious bloodbath. And to what end would it serve? Social justice? Redistribution of power? Direct democracy? Under the present circumstances, I don't think any of those nice dreams would materialize. More likely, it would be a complete nightmare.

As Fred Hampton put it in the video I posted Tuesday, education is vital. If you suddenly handed the keys to The People, most wouldn't know why or for what purpose they were acting. Without an understanding of history, of economics, of political currents, perhaps even of philosophy, people would probably revert to personal gain. After all, that's the main narrative hammered into American skulls. Without an educational counterbalance, you're left with conditioning and instinct. And considering the national culture, that means a lot of shallowness, ugliness, and desperation.

So where does that leave us? Right here in Obama time. For masses of people, that's just fine with them. Indeed, they're intoxicated by it. They look to Obama to set things right, to make them proud, to restore America to her noble perch. I know it's early, but the Obama chorus isn't giving any indication of skepticism, of potential dissent, of turning on their savior. It may happen, but I don't see it. Then again, as we've established, I'm crazy, so who can trust my perceptions? Still, my padded cell has a pretty good view of the national yard, the acoustics loud and clear. I'm not missing much on that front. It simply comes down to perspective.

All of this yammering aside, don't I find the image of a black man in the Oval Office somewhat uplifting? Seeing Obama in the big chair is a bit startling to someone my age, as I remember racism when it was open and unapologetic. So I'll confess to getting a slight charge from those first photos of Obama behind the desk. It's what that desk represents that curbs any possible enthusiasm.

To many Americans, the majority of liberals among them, the presidency is essentially a good institution, perhaps even a righteous one. It's the person who occupies it that ultimately matters, not the system that empowers the president. Thus, at street level (buoyed by endless media reinforcement), the president stands alone, the ultimate celebrity in a culture choking on celebrities. Small wonder why Obama is viewed the way he is. He's not only the first African American president, he's already rebranded the role.