Friday, 16 January 2009

Obama, Obama

Barack Obama’s inauguration as the US President is only a couple of days away and the whole planet is gripped with Obamamania. It is a historic moment to be sure, but then Obama has already taken his place in the annals of the world’s history of great men long before he is sworn in and even before he has done anything other than won the election.

In less than a year he has superseded the other ‘O’ (Oprah) as the most influential person on earth and yet another ‘O’ (the notorious Osama bin Laden) as the most talked about name across the globe.

Already he is becoming a legend commanding a rock star status and adoring fans on the scale of Elvis or The Beatles. His inauguration is generating a feverish mania that is no doubt spooking Washington DC who’s getting antsy about the potential millions of people descending on the town screaming in hysterics, waving candles and getting into trance while chanting O-BA-MA.

Obama’s inauguration will no doubt be part of history’s greatest moments in Western Civilisation along with the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution and Woodstock; recounted by grandparents to their grandchildren with the misty eyes and by teachers to schoolchildren to impress upon them the power of dreams.

Obama has captured the imagination of all who dream of greatness in ways that only Hollywood heroes can do. He is after all the embodiment of the American Dream: the triumph of Good over Evil; the sentimental drama of persistence, courage and passion in the face of impossible challenges.

He is The Happy Ending that brings tears to cynical eyes and warms the cockles of hardened hearts and the belief, however fleeting, that there is hope and that change will surely come.

Where President Bush has sparked loathing and shoe throwing, Obama inspires poetry of various qualities including some dodgy pseudo-haikus I found on the Internet that go: ‘Barack is the man/Who inspires us all/To say “Yes, We can!” ’and ‘Dream of country dies./If we elect Obama,/We can live again’. (Yes, well).

Moreover, the Obama story is eclipsing other cult films not just in terms of the number of viewers and ratings but more tangibly, by bringing the art of merchandising to new heights. In the face of global gloom and doom, Obama is creating his own brand of fiscal stimulus, allowing retailers to cash in on the historic day and persuading consumers to part with their meagre cash.

Why not literally bring Obama’s spirit of change home? I read that Ikea, the home furnishing retailer in DC is touting Obama’s message of ‘Change Begins at Home’ to encourage people to swap their old sofa for a new one with good conscience vital in these days of reuse, recycle and repair.

Other commemorative Obama souvenirs being churned out for the event range from the run of the mill coins and t-shirts to the more outlandish such as the Barack Obama Inauguration hot sauce ($6.99), Obama toilet paper, Obama soaps, Hope-on-a-Rope ($20) and Obama Bars with the message ‘this is the moment to clean up America.’ And, yes, even Obama sex toys…

I won’t be surprised if here in Indonesia there’s already Bakmie Obama or Nasi Goreng Obama. To be sure someone has already bought his childhood home with no doubt the hope to change it into a commercial enterprise. For it seems that everybody wants to have a piece of him, to bask in the sunshine of his greatness, to seize on the Hope and the Change to make a quick buck.

As for me, I’m already anguishing that history is already over at the moment of his becoming the most powerful man on the planet; his struggle and pain to overcome all odds are already entering the realm of mythology, up there with the Iliad and the Odyssey. Obama has reached such dizzying pantheon heights that I fear the only way for him from now on is down, pulled by the gravity of mundane tasks, shrunk by the wearisome demands ordinary mortals and weighed down by the burden of unrealistic expectations.

I fear that his fate would be that of another ‘O’, namely Ozymandias the ancient king immortalised in Shelley’s poem? ‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:/Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’/Nothing beside remains. Round the decay/Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,/The lone and level sands stretch far away.’ (@Desi Anwar. First appeared in The Jakarta Globe)

(January 2009-01-16)

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