Monday, February 18, 2008

Why Do They Hurt Me Most When I First Wake Up?

Friday, I chose to ignore, as much as I could, the emerging narrative, exemplified by Charles Krauthammer's column in the Washington Post, of Obama's appeal as "cult-like" and "creepy". I couldn't because it emerged so fast, and became a matter of fact among the typing classes. One would think such a tactic, transparently stupid on its face - especially coming from a group (conservatives) who have tried to create in Ronald Reagan the Greatest American Of All Time - would have fallen flat pretty quickly. It may yet, but it has emerged yet again at the Post, this time in Claire Hoffman's contribution to the On Faith forum.
Is Obama the Messiah? People are asking these days and it's not so hard to understand why: the desperate throngs, the tears, the great awakening of a slumbering demographic. All that larger symbolism.

This is how the column begins. One would think it couldn't get worse - "People are asking. . ."; please - but it does. Keep tissues handy for the blood sure to start seeping from your eyes from the stupid.
The emotional landscape of many American voters is calamitous of late -- frightened by our Babylonian war, unhappy with our President and depressed by the cleansing crush of the credit crunch -- so it's not surprising that the coming presidential election would take on a certain biblical coloring.

The Messiah question is a loud one coming from all corners. Even a blogger for Mother Jones, the hot heart of the far left, worries that the Obama-passion will be used for nefarious purposes by right-wingers, he himself writes "Barack Obama has a messiah complex and no one will convince me otherwise."

Is the "emotional landscape of many American voters . . . calamitous of late"? It may be. Calling our occupation of Iraq "our Babylonian war" - ugh. This kind of garbage is just awful - pseudo-psychobabble combined with the kind of phrasing - "people", "no one", to make it seem as if the writer has surveyed enough Americans to make the kinds of judgments about a mass as quixotic, diverse, and variegated as the American public. As I wrote on Saturday, on the heels of Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism, it shouldn't be surprising that the right is turning the narrative in this direction. How better to discredit a candidate than thinly-veiled references to the kind of emotional euphoria one sees in grainy newsreel footage of ecstatic Germans tossing HItlergruss and clamoring "Sieg Heil!"? The fact the phenomenon is on the liberal rather than the conservative end of the spectrum only confirms for these folks that lefties are all a bunch of closet goose-stepper, ready to toss another fetus in the oven, and force all the menfolk to acts of sodomy.

I remember reading Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind when it came out 20 years ago, and one passage in particular has stuck with me. He describes the fervor of fans at a rock concert (trying to imagine Allan Bloom at a rock concert is a bit of a stretch; it's in his book, though, so we should just run with it), and compares all the trappings - the unison shouting, the hands waving in the air, the emotional flush on the faces of the fans - to these same old Triumph of the Will clips. At the time, I thought he was just an old fart who didn't know any better. In light of Jonah's typing exercise and these latest attempts to paint a portrait of a scary, "messianic" movement, I'm not so sure.

It's all bunk, of course. All of this - with the exception of the column linked here - comes from people part of a movement that includes putting Ronald Reagan's name on some federally funded piece of property in every county in the United States; insists that Reagan won the Cold War, cut taxes every chance he got, and elevated the fetus to citizenship while simultaneously protecting us from evil brown folks; has tried and failed, since the old codger wandered out of office in 1989, to find a replacement for him. That they would turn around now and accuse liberals, who are excited by a candidate (actually they are pretty pleased with both candidates, for the most part; Obama just has that extra frisson about him), of creepy, cult-like, Messianic adoration is almost comical.

This is one narrative we need to strangle quickly.

Virtual Tin Cup

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