23 May 2011

Hail to the Chief

From a strange land among the hills, the tall man
Came; who was a cobbler and a rebel at the start
Till he saw power ahead and keenly fought
To seize it; crushed out his comrades then.
His brittle eyes could well outstare the eagle
And the young followed him with cheers and praise
Until, at last, all that they knew - his nights, his days,
His deeds and face were parcel of a fable.

Now in the neat white house that is his home
He rules the flowers and birds just like a king,
And, Napoleon by the sundial, sees his fame
Spread though the garden to the heap of dung;
“All that I do is history,” he loudly cries
Seeing in his shadow his romantic size.

Ruthven Todd, ‘Dictator’, 1938
In January of 2009 I travelled 4,500 miles to Washington DC to join the million strong crowds witnessing the son of a Kenyan farmer assume the highest political office in the US. Today I will not even travel a kilometer and a half to College Green to see him.

I still hope he gets re-elected, the alternative is far too grim, but two years of failed opportunities and misjudged compromises, a revolving door in his administration for the very lobbyists and Wall Street executives he campaigned against during the election, three armed conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa that make a mockery of the Nobel Peace Prize he was too hastily awarded, and a Guantanamo that still remains open despite its closure being the first act signed into law by Obama shortly after his inauguration, have all taken the sheen off what was once seen as a genuine opportunity for change in the US.

Going to see President Obama in 2009 was like seeing U2 in 1992. Seeing him in 2011 is like seeing U2 in 2011. All you want him to do is play his greatest hits (Hope, Change etc), but all you get is No Line on the Horizon and a slightly ill feeling everytime Bono starts talking.

The Idea of Obama is more powerful than the Reality of Obama has ever been.

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