Insomnia (insomnia) wrote,
Insomnia
insomnia

The symbolic imperative for President Barack Obama.

I am, if anything, a student of history... and you cannot study American history as an American without finding a curious thread of coincidences that only reenforces the notion that this country follows a divine course, and has a divine mission in this world.

As someone who admits that he does not -- and seemingly might never -- know if there is a God, it is easy for me to dismiss these coincidences as something neither of definitively divine origin, or even unique to our nation. Certainly, the British and the French have had similar divinely inspired moments in their history, from the defeat of the Spanish Armada to Joan of Arc.  Some coincidences are inexplicable, and will resolutely remain so.

Great nations develop great narratives, uniquely appropriate to the nation, and full of rich symbolism that takes on elements of the divine. The actual divine nature of the symbolism matters little. As Voltaire said, "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him." ... and so goes symbolism. Indeed, great leaders have always done so, from the pharoahs, to Louis XIV, to the New Deal. 

And so, what am I to think of Barack Obama? He is a man whose team clearly knows the power of symbolism, whose life is rife with symbolic importance, and even random circumstance only serves to reenforce that notion.

There are many Republicans -- and some Democrats -- that resent such use of symbolism, but that said, there is no doubt that Reagan and Bush, Jr. also embraced symbolism... but frankly, they often misused it, for largely unhelpful or positively harmful purposes. Bush, Jr.'s symbolism was big budget, over-the-top, and, frankly, hamfisted. Democrats resent symbolism oftentimes because they feel manipulated -- even if they and others are being emotionally coerced and coaxed for all the best of reasons -- but I suspect the reason that most Republican politicians resent Obama's use of symbolism is because it's oftentimes just so damn effective.

In comparison, McCain, despite having a strong symbolic past, initially came off as incredibly tone-deaf in regards to aesthetics, running away from associations with Republican red, and finally co-opting both Democratic blue and Obama's aesthetics.  Like Hillary, he tried running as Obama-lite... and like Hillary, he lost, as Obama pivoted effectively from style to substance.

So, to make a long story short, only a fool ignores the power of symbology, and only a losing fool believes that it's somehow beneath them to engage in symbolism, especially if it helps to bring about not only public success, but also a larger public good.

Somehow, Republicans have forgotten that a great leader thinks big and leaves his mark on his country and the world.  I'm sorry, but fast food restaurants, graffiti, vandalism, and a huge national debt don't count. Besides, that kinda thing didn't work out very well in the longterm for others either.

If you seriously contemplate the potential of symbolism to achieve a greater good in America, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, you have to admit to yourself the great potential of Barack Obama... you may not *like* to admit it, and you may not like the use of symbology, but the potential for leaving a lasting legacy is absolutely palpable.    

Imagine August 28th, 2013, in the first year after President Obama's reelection.

The entirety of Washington D.C. packed with a huge crowd of Americans, spread from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, gathering to celebrate as a nation and hear the speakers... and one in particular, as he says words familiar, but with new significance and meaning.

"We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of a debt owed to those who came before us fifty years ago. Of those who fought for our nation's future, who suffered for that future, and of those who gave their lives in service to this nation.

We as a nation owe them a great debt of gratitude, and a continued commitment to creating a truely United States.

We owe them a commitment to today, and to the future of every American, that we, as Americans, are determined to fulfill.

Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to lift up our nation in brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

I have a dream today!

That today, we, as one nation, can rise up and live out the true meaning of the creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream today!

That here and across this great land, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners can sit down together and celebrate at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream today!

That my children -- and yours -- can live together in a nation where they are judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

That we, as one nation, have, out of the mountain of despair, brought forth a stone of hope. And that with this faith, we can and will transform the jangling discords of our nation into a symphony. That we can work together, pray together, struggle together, and stand up for freedom... together... knowing that we are free Americans!

This is the day! Today is that day, now is the moment, when we can all sing together with new meaning."


He starts slowly and quietly, and is soon overwhelmed by the crowd.

"My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!"


And then, in every city and in every town of America, the bells start ringing...
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