Sunday, February 01, 2009

'President Oxybarama,' per Spengler

1/22/09: "United States President Barack Obama "signaled a commitment to pragmatism not just as a governing strategy but as a basic value",
  • Washington bureau chief David Sanger.
Pragmatism, of course, is not a value, but rather the triumph of expediency over values. To call pragmatism a "basic value" is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms, like "studied ignorance", or "impassioned apathy". Obama had plenty of that today, too.
  • "[Obama's] appearance on the Capitol steps was so historic that
  • the address became larger than its own language, more imbued with meaning than anything he could say,"
  • added (NY Times') Sanger,
which is to say that Obama said nothing memorable. Just what was historic?
was not imbued,
  • but rather hued, with significance.
  • His melanin carried the meaning, which is to say that
  • in a precise reversal of Martin Luther King Jr's famous phrase.
America's African Americans,
  • hailed this carpetbagger as a savior.
For a generation of white liberals raised on the notion that skin-color aversion is the original sin of American politics, the confusion is understandable.
  • The African Americans in attendance should have known better. In a way, they did.
  • If not for Aretha Franklin, the day would have been a total loss.
Words failed not only Obama, as Sanger noted, but his preacher and poetess as well. The Reverend Joseph Lowery, an old civil rights campaigner of Martin Luther King's generation, concluded his benediction with a jingle: " ... help us work for that day when black will not be asked to give back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right." There was depth in Lowery's triviality....

It just wasn't their day. I mean that literally: it was a day on which
  • a dark-skinned man became president who had nothing to do with them.
  • The son of a Kenyan economist and an American anthropologist walked off with
  • the blood-stained mantle of seven decades of civil rights struggle.
If the black poets and clergy offered a counterfeit of real emotion, it is hard to blame them. They were just the extras on Obama's stage set.
  • Oxybarama's inauguration has been compared to John F Kennedy's, when the 87-year-old poet Robert Frost recited The Gift Outright. ... It is not one of the great poems in the language, but it is classical in construction, Biblical in evocation, and beautifully turned out.... Sadly, Yale University's Alexander measures up to Frost
  • about as well as Obama measures up to John F Kennedy.
When Kennedy warned that Americans would bear any burden and pay any price in the cause of freedom, he faced a ruthless and powerful contender in the Soviet Union, whose power still was ascending. Obama observes that "our power alone cannot protect us" (something else than power is supposed to protect the United States?). He added oxymoronically that "our power grows through its prudent use", and through "the tempering qualities of humility and restraint".
Obama's America is everything to everyone, and nothing to anyone.
  • Where Frost evoked a land that had yet to possess a people yet to be born through sacrifice, Obama's America is "Here Comes Everybody": "For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth."
It is one thing to include everyone in America, but quite another to think of the country as a "patchwork"
  • rather than as a land to whom many belonged before they were adopted into it, the sense of its national motto, E Pluribus Unum ( Out of Many, One).
There is no "there" in Obama's address.
  • Instead, there are nods in so many directions that the compass needle spins.
  • Oxymorons abound because Obama is struggling to hold together so many disparate elements that their incompatibility pops to the surface now and again.
We fear at every moment that he will fly apart like the inventor Coppelius' dancing doll of E T A Hoffman's story. " by Spengler from Asia Times, 1/22/09


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