Monday, June 22, 2009

There Is No God But Obama, And Obama Is His Prophet.

Newsweek's Evan Thomas stirred controversy and debate after he said about President Barack Obama's Cairo speech, "In a way, Obama’s standing above the country, above-above the world, a sort of god." Thomas sort of complains that he is being taken out of context, which prompted Peter Wehner to write on Commentary magazine's Contentions blog: "So I would ask: Mr. Thomas, in what context can you call Barack Obama a 'sort of God'?" (Here.)

The correct context would be when Mr. Thomas is describing how President Obama's followers view his place in the world.

The apotheosis of Barack Obama to god-President begins with his name. Obama: the name's first letter is an "O," a circle, the perfect shape in nature, symbolic of unity. O-ba-ma is three syllables long, a magical and divine number, powerful in rhetoric. (See "the rule of three" here.) Say his name: Obama. To Western ears his name is exotic. A magic word, chantable: Obama, Obama, Obama. Don't think for a moment his marketers don't know it.

The apotheosis continued with his campaign. There were the creepy YouTube videos by will.i.am and others, the iconic posters, the proliferation of news photos with strange halo effects around Obama’s head, the Obama speeches attended by swooning and crying listeners, the campaign's instructions to volunteers to steer away from policy talk and testify about their own "come to Obama" moments, the thrill running up Chris Matthews’s leg, the cable news hype leading up to the inauguration. Need we go on?

An aspect of Barack Obama’s appeal is that he seems a sort of god or prophet. He has been sent to America to redeem its past sins and transform the country into something better than it’s ever been. He isn't just a messenger of hope and change, he is the very personification of hope and change. A man of humble means born from the union of an American white woman and an immigrant black African man who grows up to become President. In crisis he is calm, unflappable, cool. He stands above it all. He is a font of wisdom who sees the flaws in both sides of any issue or dispute and is able to show us the perfect middle way. His mere words are believed to have the power to effect miraculous change: Obama speaks in Cairo; an electoral miracle happens in Lebanon.

There is rhetorical exaggeration in all this, of course. But not much. There is no god but Obama, and Obama is his prophet. Peace be upon his name.

-tdr

First published in slightly different form as a comment to the Contentions blog on Commentary.org.

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