Anne Notations

Friday, August 29, 2008

Great and powerful

I was impressed with Barack Obama's acceptance speech in Denver last night. He looked both authoritative and at ease. He said important things that begged to be said about the direction our country needs to go – toward tolerance, integrity, and a shared ethos; and away from fear-fueled bias, dissembling, and special interests. As oratory, it was above-average, not brilliant; nor did I come away with that one unforgettable "Ask not what your country..." nugget. But the message was on-point and well delivered. (As I write this, it occurs to me that the McCain ads painting Obama as a celebrity missed the mark. He does not have an especially high charisma quotient as politicians go. His appeal is more that of an earnest, honest, whip-smart workhorse. The rock-star image, in my opinion, derives more from Obama's relative youth, his racial novelty, and his compelling personal saga.)

The cut-away shots of Obama's gorgeous wife and sweet young daughters, and of teary-eyed citizens crowding the enormous stadium, were a perfect counterpoint to his composed, forceful eloquence.

I was less comfortable with the temple-like set behind Obama (above) and the giant flanking screens. The screens enlarged him to Wizard-of-Oz proportions, recalling a movie scene that scared the pee out of me as a young child:

"Silence, whippersnapper!" Yikes.

As Republican pundit Peggy Noonan pointed out this morning on the Today Show, the columned façade was a visual nod to Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial precisely 45 years earlier.

I have no issue with Obama's team referencing King's legendary speech; the nomination, after all, is a historic milestone in its own right and a victory for the civil rights King championed at the cost of his life.

Rather, the whole set-up struck me as borderline tacky and semiotically a bit ominous. Flags waving, a grandiose edifice as backdrop, a lone charismatic figure on high, the unison chants of a dazzled crowd... Well, I'm sorry, but the scenes that involuntarily came to my mind were these:

Calm down! I am not in any way equating the honorable and admirable Sen. Obama, who has had my vote for the presidency almost from the start, with the evil, twisted Hitler.

But choreographed political spectacles give me the heebie-jeebies. They make me want to take a step back, to say, "OK, this is the man we want as our leader, but can we cool it with the imperial imagery?".

There is no sanction in these United States for all-powerful wizards or dictators. Please let us always have the wisdom and the will to keep it that way.

And, one more thing: Vote Obama for change!


  • In my mind I keep chanting, "Please stay safe, please don't have a scandal, please don't screw this up," every time he's on screen. He is certainly a breath of fresh air. I've never watched every night of a convention before this year, but I enjoyed this one. It's been rough up until this point because my family has some Hillary fans, but now that Hillary said it's okay I can finally say I'm for Obama in front of my mum. ;)

    I kinda felt bad for the people who got the seats facing Obama's back, but I guess there were so many people who wanted to be there they had to move it to a stadium. I'm glad he only needs people to vote and not to go throwing buckets of water on the opposition, though, that'd be difficult. (The Wizard used to scare the bejeebers out of me, too.)

    By Blogger BrideOfPorkins, at Sat Aug 30, 01:11:00 AM EDT  

  • I tried something new this convention -- I listened to it rather than watched. I can't stand the bloviators on network or cable television, who, to me, resemble what scared me most in the "Wizard of Oz" -- the flying monkeys.

    By Blogger Tracie, at Sun Aug 31, 08:57:00 AM EDT  

  • One of the interesting things about the year's campaign is the overall *lack* of charisma. Neither Obama nor McCain are particularly gifted at connecting on a gut level with people, the way that Bill Clinton did.

    By Blogger Miriam L, at Sun Aug 31, 09:02:00 AM EDT  

  • Good post. And good comments. I find it fascinating that the day after Biden's speech the picture in the Times was of Clinton's speech. I kind of wish he could have stayed president or be president again.

    By Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann, at Mon Sep 01, 01:01:00 AM EDT  

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