Jam Tomorrow in Obama’s Promised Land

I’m not sure I just listened to Obama’s winning speech or a snippet-sampler of sixties black soundbites.

‘it’s been a long time coming, but the change is gonna come..’

‘Our climb will be steep, we may not get there in one year or one term, I promise you, we as a people will get there . etc etc’

but without quotation marks or acknowledgement. As common property. Maybe we will have a better idea of what to expect from President Obama when we hear a speech of his own, without the Sam Cooke impersonation or the ‘charisma’. Until then, he is the President of last resort. A repository of mass hope in a desperate time. A candidate who exploited the vast desire for a way out of the dirty little corner the neo-con madness had dug for America. Mohammed Ali, who we can expect to see soon, invented the strategy in the Rumble in the Jungle. Obama gave it a twist and ‘Hope a Dope’ was born. This tactic involves offering no concrete proposals for real change, but simply allowing the electorate to exhaust themselves into your arms as they fill you with their expectation.
It sounds bad, but might be as good a C21st policy-making strategy as any other.
Similarly, because every world leader now wants to be his new friend, and be photographed smiling alongside this demi-god of Cool, the myth might be at least as effective as a raft of detailed, costed policies produced by a ministry full of experts. The medium is the message, I suppose.
All of which sounds like a return to a far more regal, courtly style of rule between powerful leaders. A whiff of Deripaska. A further centralisation of power, rather than the redistribution which the people who elected Obama expect.
Looking back, this victory will be seen as a the first internet election, when individuals played a bigger part than ever in deciding the political outcome by the warm glow of their monitors. But on the evidence so far, Obama might also be the first virtual president. A CGI model of political appeal. If the good folks at Industrial Light & Magic were commissioned to produce an avatar to melt the hearts and minds of as many people as possible in an age of frantic chaos, who else could they come up with but a mixed race, glowingly-handsome, basketball-playing father of twoe with a gorgeous wife and no convictions? An American Adonis. A Coltrane-cool vision of self-control and Hope. And Change – however vague and dependent merely on the differences between Obama and the stumbling chimpanzee Bush.

If this is all bluff, who will call it first? At some point, this American president is not going to be able to put off the question of Robert Mugabe. If Obama is real, the old bastard’s days are numbered. The discreet villa beckons. Surely a decrepit wounded dinosaur like Mugabe cannot withstand the healing spirit of the great redeemer? But what if he does? And what will Valdimir Putin do with this political whelp who has never poisoned any opponents, apart from announcing new missile bases on the edge of NATO territory?

And underneath all the global expectation, is still the untapped depth of domestic redneck resentment and race hate. The less savoury cousins of the people who booed Chips McCain’s speech last night acknowledging defeat. Those who agree with Slim Pickens that

“Here we take the good time and trouble to slaughter every last injun in the west, and for what? So that they can appoint a president that’s blacker’n any injun. Boy, am I depressed.”

Barack Obama may be all that he seems. He may indeed embody all the Hope he has been commissioned with, and his promises may all be kept, in which case, we will indeed have entered the Promised Land, even if we’ve still no idea of what it might be like. At the moment, it still seems more like Jam Tomorrow than anything real.
But not perhaps as unreal as the fact that a black president has been elected with so little fuss. The fact that the first black presidency also happens to be one of the most difficult jobs the world has ever seen, with more responsibility on the head of the poor sap in charge, is obviously a massive co-incedence. And if he happens to succumb to this massive historic burden, and fail to live up to expectation, that is hardly likely to deter the American people from electing another black president for 50 years at all.
Here’s hoping that the immortal pledge of Obama The Builder is honoured:

(Isaiah 9:6) For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.


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