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"The Obama Phenomenon"

Sunday, March 30, 2008

"The Obama Phenomenon"

...."The phenomenon in question is this: the intense desire of every human being on this planet to overcome and transcend the materialism and selfishness that shape the global economic arrangements and permeate the consciousness of all people, to overcome the looking-out-for-number one consciousness that divides us and the technocratic language that shapes our public institutions and denies us access to our common humanity, and to overcome the alienation from each other that this way of being has created so that we might once again recognize each other as embodiments of God or Spirit (or however you want to talk about the force-field of goodness, generosity, kindness, justice, peace, nonviolence, and care for each other and nature and the entirety of all that is).....
Michael Lerner, Tikkun

Friday, March 28, 2008

"a man of resplendid vision with the wisdom of Solomon"

On the Internet video sharing site YouTube, the pulsating steel-pan fused Barack the Magnificent, by Trinidad calypso king The Mighty Sparrow, has gotten more than 70,000 hits. Earlier this month, Jamaican reggae dancehall crooner Cocoa Tea released Barak Obahama, a laid-back reggae-tinged tribute that tells listeners, "This is not about class nor color, race nor creed. Make no mistake it's the changes . . . what the Americans need." . . .

"He's no ordinary man," said Sparrow, who calls Obama a man of resplendid vision with the wisdom of Solomon, the biblical king of Israel. ``I see people my age in the 70s, 80s, 60s, 50s screaming out in appreciation like when the Beatles first came to America. I can't believe that older people would react that way. That is one of the reasons why I believe he was sent by the Messiah."

Caribbean sings (literally) Obama's praises Miami Herald March 28, 2006.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

"He appeals to all that is innate and created in us in a longing for that “better country, that is a heavenly one” discussed in Hebrews 11"

The only thing that would have made it more delicious would have been if he had come to Eugene, Oregon, on Palm Sunday rather than on Good Friday. And if his supporters had been waving palm fronds rather than “Change You Can Believe In!” placards. The Obama phenomena has risen to the level of religious, almost messianic fervor.

I see among many of the young a hopelessness that is almost tangible. Alongside that is an inability to trust others and to believe in ultimate truths and values. The mantra is that authority cannot be trusted and that the loudest voices in society want to do nothing more than “sell” something. Broken homes have created a generation with absolutely no one to look up to and to turn to for advice. So direction is lacking, commitment is rare, and despair is rampant.

Barack Obama strides into that void. While voicing “other worldly” themes he suggests “this world” solutions. His soaring oratory and his ambitious promises make his appeal to hope and his drive for change seem reasonable and attainable. He appeals to all that is innate and created in us in a longing for that “better country, that is a heavenly one” discussed in Hebrews 11. And he offers fulfillment in his election to the presidency at which time he will unleash the power of government to set things right in a world currently turned upside down. Thus he offers a messianic hope with the full weight and force of the U.S. government to back him up. For many right now, with the youth leading the way, this is a compelling combination. Heaven on earth is indeed appealing rather than having to wait.

Peter Wierenga, World March 27, 2008.

Friday, March 21, 2008

"not just an ordinary human being but indeed an Advanced Soul"

I listened to that endorsement and Barack's speech afterwards and Obama, to me, must be not just an ordinary human being but indeed an Advanced Soul, come to lead America out of this mess, if we no if They, let them, but we too have a say in this Democracy, this Barack well knows. Through this trial-by-fire, recently experienced by him, he has been Humble, Noncombative, Noncritical and committed to doing his work on this earth to make it a more better and perfect union. He has kept his promise not to tear one another down but to build us up. He has courage in the face of fire, not a courage of anger but a courage of goodwill and harmlessness in spite of the difficulties. That is why he can say with honesty that he can work with the other side because where others see hate, he sees love and the good within an individual... that takes a special person to see the good when bad is all around that person and may be to bring that good out within that person.. to transform them, while all the time transforming theirself.
Commentator @ Lyn Sweet's The Scoop from Washington Chicago Sun-Times March 21, 2008

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

"What he is offering ... is a covenant for PERFECTION"

... there is no other like Obama. Absolutely none. ...

What he is offering is not for the naive, nor the fainted-hearted, its not for the uncourageous, nor the unchanging.

What he is offering is for the courageous, for those who have the heart to move beyond just dreams, and into realms never experienced in American history.

What he is offering is beyond hope, hope is just a starting point, like the intimate binding of struggle between his example of the young white girl and the old black man.

What he is offering is for those who look to the next generation, believing that perfection is not in the eyes of the beholder, but reality which we can't avoid

What he is offering is a solution for opportunities for more solutions to tackle root issues that have paralyzed a nation fit for perfection

What he is offering is the antisynthesis to an ideology of hate and a philosophy of inferiority

What he is offering is an agreement between struggles and a covenant for perfection, in that nothing is impossible if one begins with hope and the assurance of faith

What he is offering is a contract between the old and the young, black and white, citizens and immigrants, rich and poor, priviledged and the impoverished

What he is offering is beyond what we think could happen, it is what will happen someday, though the opportunity is one that we can grasp ...

I am ready for what he is offering, though I also understand that this time, fate might not be ready, though if indeed our generation's destiny, if indeed this time when we speak of such taboo truths, is indeed the time we've so longed for, to move one step closer towards perfection, then I am ready for what he is offering.

That is all that matters, no matter what the political outcome is, he has tapped into a force greater than what we have ever faced, he speaks directly to our hearts, bypassing our conscience and connecting with the root of our psyche. So that even if we try to hold hard to that which continue to divide us, because of our fear, our ignorance, and our childish philosophies of unchanging solutions; his message transcends our reach.

So on behalf of Senator Obama's message, who is truly the epitome of a dream that can only be dreamt by the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., I am truly inspired that hope, change, and perfection are all means and ends which one day, we will achieve, within this nation and the world at-large.

Akindele | March 18, 2008 12:11 PM [Comment on Lynn Sweet's Chicago Sun-Times blog]

Thursday, March 13, 2008

"The Hope of a New Generation"

The book was a REVELATION. Here was a man whose honesty about himself and understanding of the human condition are both deep and compassionate. ... Born to a white mother and an African father, he was raised in multiracial Hawaii and for several years in Indonesia. He drifted through some druggy teenage years — no apologies! — before emerging as a star at Harvard Law School. He chose to work as a community organizer in the projects of Chicago rather than join the wealthy insider world of corporate law. And as a young adult, he searched, in the distant villages of Kenya, for the father and family he never knew.

As I read all this, so elegantly written, my mind kept rolling over: Might it be possible? Is there some fate by which we could have this man as president of the United States?

The similarities between John Kennedy and Barack Obama come to mind easily: the youth, the magnetism, the natural grace, the eloquence, the wit, the intelligence, the hope of a new generation.

But it might be more to the point to view Obama as Lincolnesque in his own origins, his sobriety and what history now demands. ...

We need to recover the spiritual and moral direction that should describe our country and ourselves. We see this in Obama, and we see the promise he represents to bring factions together, to achieve again the unity that drives great change and faces difficult, and inconvenient, truths and peril. ...

Like Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama challenges America to rise up, to do what so many of us long to do: to summon "the better angels of our nature."

Jann S. Wenner, Rolling Stone Official Endorsement.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"Miracle" - Remix of Stevie Wonder's Hymn to Obama

Friday, March 07, 2008

Obama walks "the hero's journey" . . .

Some readers understood right away what I meant last week when I said that John McCain has the misfortune to be running against Luke Skywalker. But others are still scratching their heads, wondering what in the world I was talking about.

I was talking about Barack Obama. I think his story has been so compelling for so many people because it taps into one of our most profound myths.

Obama's myth is a tried-and-true one. The late folklorist Joseph Campbell called it "the hero's journey," and it's found in every culture, from Moses, David and Odysseus to Luke Skywalker, Frodo and Harry Potter.

It's both a literal journey and an inward voyage of self-discovery. The hero begins as a callow youth -- often one who has lost one or both parents -- who has no idea who he really is.

The journey consists of a series of trials that teach him his true destiny and reveal powers that he didn't know he had. These trials are usually epic struggles against seemingly invincible monsters.

David fought the giant Goliath, Odysseus fought the one-eyed Cyclops, and Obama has been waging a marathon battle against the dreaded two-headed Billary.

At the end of the journey, armed with enhanced power and self-knowledge, the hero returns home and saves the world.

Martin Snapp, Contra Costa Times March 7, 2008.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

"They just began SINGING AT ME, and they were singing 'YES WE CAN'!"

A few weeks ago, covered in Hillary badges, I approached a young couple in California and, as I was about to offer up my pearls of electoral wisdom, they just began singing at me. And they were singing Yes We Can, the song by Black Eyed Peas' Will.I.Am, whose video has become a phenomenon on YouTube. [...]
[T]his week, the musician has put out another singalong. The new video captures a different side to supporting Obama: its fanaticism, its breathless, quasi-religious excitement, and its inherent problems. Instead of the text of a speech, the refrain has simply become "Obama", and its message: "We are the ones."

The Obama campaign uses a religious calling as its central rhetorical trope: "I'm asking you to believe," reads the banner across the top of His appeal to voters is an archetype of religious conversion: instead of being asked for support, Americans are exhorted to "join the movement".

In Georgia, he directly equated his supporters with God's people: "God had a plan for his people. He told them to stand together and march together around the city… and when the horn sounded and a chorus of voices cried out together, the mighty walls of Jericho came tumbling down."

Later in the speech, he asked the congregation to "walk with me, march with me… and if enough of our voices join together, we can bring those walls tumbling down."

Obama supporters listen to his speech in San Antonio, Texas. REUTERS/Jim Young

Obama has created the impression that Clinton supporters, like the Pharisees in the temple, are obstacles to change: "I want to speak directly to all those Americans who have yet to join this movement but still hunger for change. They know it in their gut... But they're afraid. They've been taught to be cynical."

It's not an argument for better government; it's an exhortation to see the light. It's not a plan for the Presidency, but a leap of faith.

This idea came to a head in Obama's Super Tuesday speech, with those much talked about phrases: "We are the change that we seek… We are the ones we've been waiting for."

'We Are The Chosen Ones': A new hymn to Obama Telegraph [UK] March 6, 2008.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

"The similarities between Obamian hope and biblical hope are extraordinary"

Obamian hope moves beyond the past and seeks to proactively conceptualise and create the future. It does not just wait for the future to come; it contributes to its shaping and coming. It pulls the future to itself and pushes itself towards the future.

Biblical hope is similar. Like Obamian hope, it speaks to the matter of the future being pulled into the present in the Kingdom of God. In a real sense, the Kingdom of God respects but moves beyond the past and, in the present, it realises the future, in a preliminary sense. Biblical hope also, in a sense, propels the one in whom it is found toward the future consummation of this kingdom. Like Obamian hope, biblical hope knows that the present is just a platform on which the future is being built and experienced. This is powerful.

In addition, Obamian hope rises above the fray of the mundane, the dehumanising, the frivolous and the conventional. It shifts from the periphery to the centre of human history. It is a hope that escapes attempts at suppression and obliteration by 'unhope' and the forces thereof. . . .

Fundamentally, the similarities between Obamian hope and biblical hope are extraordinary, striking and intriguing. Like biblical hope, Obamian hope inspires the United States of America and the world.

Rev. Earlmont Williams, Jamaican Gleaner March 1, 2008

Monday, March 03, 2008

Associated Press: "Believe"

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., speaks at a town hall meeting in Carrollton, Texas, Monday, March 3, 2008. (AP Photo/Donna McWilliam)

Saturday, March 01, 2008

"I believe in Obama, because he believes in ME"

"It’s so rapturous, everything around him. All these huge rallies."

“I don’t think that it’s kind treatment versus unkind treatment,” Mr. Cowan began, taking issue with the depiction of journalists fawning over Mr. Obama in a “Saturday Night Live” skit last Saturday . . .

And yet, Mr. Cowan then described several advantages that he saw Mr. Obama as having over his rival. “He hasn’t been around as long, so there isn’t as much to pick at,” Mr. Cowan said. “He plays everything very cool. He’s not as much of a lightning rod. His personality just doesn’t seem to draw that kind of coverage.”

Even in the conversations we have as colleagues, there is a sense of trying especially hard not to drink the Kool-Aid,” Mr. Cowan added. “It’s so rapturous, everything around him. All these huge rallies.

On the Press Bus, Some Questions Over Favoritism, by Jacques Steinberg. New York Times March 1, 2008.

Friday, February 29, 2008

"Believe Again"

Obama Campaign online banner advertisement for the Houston Chronicle February 29, 2008. (Credit: Terry Ann Online)

"Believe in Obama"

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., talks with veterans gathered for a town hall-style campaign event at the American Legion Post 490 Friday, Feb. 29, 2008, in Houston, Texas. [Prior "curiously framed" photos of Obama by Reuters here (02/11/08) and here (01/18/08) -- what are they trying to tell us?

"Obama is inspiring us like a Desert Lover"

Barack Obama is inspiring us like a desert lover, a Washington Valentino. We who have felt apathetic, angry at two (likely) stolen elections, K-Street hegemony, the "pornography of the trivial" in journalism and culture; we who are heartbroken over a war we knew was wrong, we who thought (especially after Baby Bush got in a 2nd time) that America got what it asked for; we who stopped wanting to participate 'cause it doesn't matter whether we do or don't; we have a crush. We're talking about it; we're getting involved, we're tuning in and turning out in numbers we haven't seen in ages. My musician friends and I are writing songs to inspire people and couples all over America are making love again and shouting "yes we can" as they climax!
Lili Haydn, Huffington Post February 29, 2008.
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) speaks at a rally in Selma, Texas February 29, 2008. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., makes remarks during an outdoor rally Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008, in San Marcos, Texas. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"He's running a THEOLOGICAL campaign . . . at some point, he took off his arms, and grew wings

DAYTON, Ohio – As Barack Obama got into the meat of his speech Monday at a packed arena, he sounded more like preacher than politician.

"My bet has been paid off. My faith in the American people has been vindicated," he said as a few audience members yelled "Well!" and "Preach, brother!"

Throughout his Ohio tour, he's averaged crowds of 14,000. He had 17,000 at Reunion Arena in Dallas and 18,000 at the Toyota Center in Houston.

Many had come just to hear him speak. Some cried. Others just waved their hands.

"He's running a theological campaign," said the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who ran for president in 1984 and 1988. "At some point, he took off his arms and grew wings."

"He's very inspirational and he's very credible," said Nicole Baptiste, a 26-year-old Dayton resident who works for an information and news database company. "In our country, it's exactly what's needed."

Victor Iseli, a 77-year-old retired General Motors worker from Dayton, said Mr. Obama is more than a hope peddler.

"What he says, he will do as president," said Mr. Iseli, who spoke to Mr. Obama in a native Indonesian language after a rally."Many Hopefully Devoted to Obama The Dallas Morning News February 26, 2008.

"He's All Things to All Men"

. . . scattered attempts so far to take a detailed tough look at Obama's career have "barely caused a ripple."

They included a Time magazine piece on Obama's penchant for sidestepping issues in the Illinois senate by voting "present" and a look at how he watered down a bill affecting a nuclear power company that contributed to his campaign.

It's hard to imagine that any new such revelations would put a dent in the feverish support of many who find it hard to explain his grip.

"Obama has this almost irrational following and I myself can't sometimes explain why I'm supporting him," Noah Norman, 25, recently told the Washington Post.

"He's all things to all men. At least that's how I put it."

The Canadian Press, February 26, 2008

Monday, February 25, 2008

"I Have a Pint-Sized Obamaphile"

. . . I have a pint sized Obamaphile — or should that be Obama-bhakta (bhakta in Sanskrit means devotee) in deference to her Indian roots? — in the household. These days, he is included in J’s morning prayers, which is an honor normally reserved for things and people closest to her heart. She has been following his fortunes in the primaries for a while now and has managed to suck me into it as well.

Obamaphilia is quite contagious as it turns out. Thanks to my daughter, I keep an eye on CNN for the latest on Obama because J’s need for information on him is insatiable. . . .

Obamamania has done what the combined inducements of PBS, Discovery, Cartoon Network, and, I will grudingly admit, Netflix, failed to do. I asked her a few days ago if the timing of the debate coincided with the weekend of her play date which one she would pick. “The debate of course,” she replied. “Why?” I asked incredulously. “Because it is so interesting. Play dates are all the same,” she explained like it should have been self-evident to me.

And it is not only debates she likes. She has had me dig up old Obama speeches from YouTube. The man just has to talk and J is all mesmerized. She sits transfixed and watches him like she were in a hypnotic trance. . . .

As for me, I can't wait for this to be over so J can go back to being the kid who loved High School Musical and waited all week for Friday to come along so she could have a play date. Life would return to normal – maybe in Obama-speak that would be “business as usual” and not the change that he exhorts everyone to be and participate in. Until then I will have to cope with J chanting “Go Obama” the best I can.

Underage Obamaphilia February 23, 2008 | Matthew 18: 3-4

Elsewhere: "Obama Babies" on YouTube

Sunday, February 24, 2008

"Barack Obama is the Hope of the Entire World"

Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan said Sunday that presidential candidate Barack Obama is the "hope of the entire world" that the U.S. will change for the better.

The 74-year-old Farrakhan, addressing an estimated crowd of 20,000 people at the annual Saviours' Day celebration, never outrightly endorsed Obama but spent most of the nearly two-hour speech praising the Illinois senator.

"This young man is the hope of the entire world that America will change and be made better," he said. "This young man is capturing audiences of black and brown and red and yellow. If you look at Barack Obama's audiences and look at the effect of his words, those people are being transformed."

Farrakhan compared Obama to the religion's founder, Fard Muhammad, who also had a white mother and black father.

"A black man with a white mother became a savior to us," he told the crowd of mostly followers. "A black man with a white mother could turn out to be one who can lift America from her fall."

A Spry Farrakhan Sings Obama's Praises Associated Press. February 24, 2008.

"a band plays 'Obama-alujah' and thousands stand in the chill night ready to be rapturous"

Mr. Obama is on an electoral roll, polls show him pulling closer in Ohio and Texas, crowds show him the Big Celebrity Love, what’s not to like? A touch of cockiness is discernable in his manner now; he is like a gambler convinced his every dice roll will come up double sixes.

His rally in Austin, Tex., on Friday evening fitted his hoped-for-narrative. Fifteen-thousand people, maybe 20,000, jam into the streets in front of the soaring State Capitol, with the usual Obama-as-electoral-rave giddiness. University of Texas guys with painted faces flash the longhorn symbol with their fingers, red-white-and-blue beach balls bounce through the crowd, a band plays “Obama-alujah” and thousands stand in the chill night ready to be rapturous. . . .

On Center Stage, a Candidate Letting His Confidence Show New York Times February 24, 2008.
Dawn had not broken, and yet the television images showed Dallas' Reunion Arena and a long line of silhouetted people already gathering for an event not scheduled until noon.

They were awaiting the messianic figure of a presidential candidate who had just added two more wins to his victory column and who the night before had ignited a crowd of about 20,000 in Houston.

Barack Obama was coming to town. . . .

Inside the arena, the unprompted crowd was yelling, "O-BAM-A! O-BAM-A! O-BAM-A!" a full 90 minutes before the candidate would appear. And just like at sporting events there in days gone by, one section spontaneously led the others in the "wave."

"Old" warriors such as longtime community leader Rene Martinez and activist Roy Williams marveled at the enthusiasm among the diverse audience and said they had never seen anything quite like this.

"If I died today, it would be all right," Williams told me, indicating he was witnessing something he never expected he would live to see.

Parents had taken their children out of school because they were keenly aware this was a special moment in history. Some high school kids from Fort Worth had skipped classes and taken the early train to Dallas.

When finally taking the stage, Obama basked in the outpouring of affection as his followers stood in awe of the man whom they had waited so long to behold. He was well into his speech when he thought to remind the crowd that it was all right for them to sit down as he delivered the rest of his comments.

Some have made fun of his charismatic nature, inspirational tone and continual reference to hope. Many wonder if that wonderment and glorified exuberance can last through the rest of the campaign.

Well, based on what I saw, this movement won't peak until November.

Bob Ray Sanders, Star Telegram February 24, 2008.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

"... an almost mesmeric fervour ..."

Mary Tyszko, a white, 50-year-old health worker, clutched her hands. “He has given me hope. I really believe in him. And I just trust him.”

Then Mr Obama took to the stage. The noise was deafening, a long, exultant roar with all the force and overwhelming power of a jet engine before take-off. “Obama! Obama! Obama! Obamaaaaaaaaa!” they chanted

From four giant screens hanging from the ceiling, Mr Obama’s image could be seen from the farthest reaches of the stadium, waving, clapping at this adoring crowd, as they stared up at him with an almost mesmeric fervour. At one point in his speech, delivered in the religious cadence of Dr King, Mr Obama had to blow his nose. “Obama!” they chanted and clapped again, as their idol wiped his face.

This is a daily ritual for Mr Obama. Only 24 hours earlier, he appeared in a Mexican-American enclave of western San Antonio and drew a crowd as big as that which greeted Pope John Paul II when he visited the same area in September 1987. . . . he is greeted by massive crowds, never before seen during a presidential primary campaign, filled with young and old, black and white, men and women, steelworkers and fund managers, nurses and accountants. No wonder he believes the White House is now within his reach.
Tim Reid, The Times [UK] February 23, 2008.

"What if God is trying to make a statement?"

In the last generation, a motivated, organized "religious right" has flexed its considerable muscle in both electing candidates and shaping American public policy.

But what if God is trying to make a statement in 2008 through the meteoric rise of a new symbol -- a charismatic, eloquent senator from Illinois who is turning conventional American politics on its head? That food for thought will form the basis of Sunday's sermon by Pastor John Van Sloten at New Hope Church, . . .

Van Sloten admits he's become an unabashed fan of Barack Obama after watching his TV speeches and reading his book The Audacity of Hope.

"I know Obama has been criticized for being all about vague ideals and not about specific policies," Van Sloten says.

"But unless you have ideals, nothing is going to change. You have to be able to dream outside the box."

Sunday sermon cheers rise of Obama, by Graeme Morton, Calgary Herald. February 23, 2008.

Friday, February 22, 2008

"Obama will DEMAND that you shed your cynicism"

Barack Obama WILL REQUIRE YOU to work. He is going to DEMAND that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation and that you move out of your comfort zone. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage.

Barack will NEVER ALLOW YOU to go back to your lives as usual – uninvolved, uninformed – you have to stay at the seat at the table of democracy with a man like Barack Obama not just on Tuesday but in a year from now, in four years from now, in eights years from now, YOU WILL HAVE TO BE ENGAGED.
Michelle Obama, campaign speech at UCLA (links to video, audio @ Protein Wisdom)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

"It was more like church . . ."

Maybe it was the representation of youth in the crowd that lends the oft-cited air of a rock concert that has been attributed to Obama rallies.

But that wasn't quite it, not entirely. It was more like church – not the stuffy kind, but roof-shaking soul church where people testify and dance in the aisles when the spirit's upon them.

"It's electric! Can't you feel it?" said one man, who told me he was headed for work at the IRS after the rally. I could feel it, because it's a fundamental element of crowd psychology that the expectation of "electricity" creates it. . . .

The main event, of course, was the speech, which I have heard before. I just sat back and felt the key phrases wash over the crowd: "new," "change," "Kennedy," "Scooter Libby justice," "wiretaps," "Katrina."

The lady sitting next to me dipped into a bucket of popcorn and murmured the phrases back: " 'If you believe.' 'The time is now.' That's right," she agreed.

She was a little disappointed, in fact, when the rally ended: "Why didn't he do, 'Yes we can'?" she asked a friend, as if a concert had ended, the biggest hit not performed.

Life of the party: Obama's supporters rock Reunion Arena Dallas Morning News February 21, 2008.
* * *

. . . about a half-hour into a speech here, the Illinois Democrat announced that he had to take a quick break. "Gotta blow my nose here for a second," Obama said.

Out came a Kleenex (or perhaps it was a hankie), and he wiped his nose.

The near-capacity audience at the Reunion Arena, which his campaign said totaled 17,000, broke out in a slightly awkward applause.

John McCormick, The Baltimore Sun | Obama Blows His Nose, Crowd Goes Wild Video Footage

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"consumated by a handshake . . . the OBAMA handshake"

I felt the crowd down front tighten as many of us stood on our toes, stretched our bodies forward while reaching out to Barack. I noticed that a six foot tall guy who was standing in front of me had stretched far enough above the crowd and shook hands with Barack. As the guy drew back his hand I asked him, "You shook his hand didn't you?" Happily the guy said "Yes." I then said, "give me some of that" and the guy shook my hand with the same hand he had just clasped with Barack's. A woman friend of mine who was standing next to me saw me shake hands with the guy. I turned to her and said "He [the guy] just shook hands with Barack," to which she responded..."Hey, give it up." We then shook hands. She then turned to the person next to her and shook hands. This chain of hand shakes went on for about five or six more persons.

I did not know the tall guy in front of me; he is white, I am black. But at the moment we shook hands, I felt some solidarity with this stranger, consummated by a handshake and signifying some unspoken agreement presumably about Barack Obama and his core message of UNITY!

I call this hand-shake scenario the "BAM" because, descriptively, it takes a bit of Obama's name and it's the sound of a collision, of People Coming Together!

"The "BAM"...The OBAMA Handshake!" My.BarackObama.Com (Campaign Website)

Supporters reach out to touch the hand of democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) after he spoke at a rally in Dallas, Texas February 20, 2008.

"Politics doesn't even begin to describe it. A visit to an Obama rally is a pilgrimage"

DAVID WRIGHT: We've been to dozens of huge rallies like this in dozens of states and with every victory, Obama's congregation seems to be growing. If you've never been to an Obama rally before, a word of advice, go early. Think Springsteen concerts, but the tickets are free. First come, first serve. In Boise, Idaho, a few weeks back it couldn't have been more than 15 degrees out. But outside Taco Bell Arena early on a Saturday morning, everyone waited patiently because inside--

OBAMA: If you arrive together, we will remake this country and we will remake the world.

WRIGHT: --inside, they felt the warm glow of hope.

OBAMA: Keep me in your prayers. You know, make sure that everybody is praying and give me that protective blanket over it.

WRIGHT: Obama's true believers respond as though they've spent their whole lives out in the cold. At rally after rally, a few people literally faint.

OBAMA: [Montage of Obama reacting to fainting]: Is somebody okay? Did somebody just get faint? It looks like we have somebody who may have fainted. Hold on a second, young lady. Are you okay? Why don't you sit down though.

WRIGHT: Politics doesn't even begin to describe it. A visit to an Obama rally is a pilgrimage.
WRIGHT: From Boise to Baltimore, he's winning them over. For you, is it even a close call between him and Hillary Clinton?

SECOND OBAMA SUPPORTER (FEMALE): Not at all. Because, as he said, she is the past, he is the future and the present. You know, you have to move forward.

OBAMA: There is a moment in the life of every generation, if it is to make its mark on history, where that spirit of hope has to come through.

WRIGHT: From the looks on their faces, they're yearning to hear stuff like that. As though they've waited for so long, they've almost lost hope. And now he comes along.

OBAMA: But we spend our whole lives caught up in being told what we can't do. And what's not possible, and that children have to be poor and race always is going to matter in this country and there's always going to be injustice and the economy can never work for anybody. We're fed that stuff all the time. Mostly by folks who are in power and take advantage of the status quo.

WRIGHT: Some testimonials are nostalgic for an era when hope didn't seem so naive. Others imagined what has never been and asked why not.

OPRAH WINFREY: Disappointment doesn't have to be normal anymore. For the first time, I'm stepping out of my pew because I've been inspired.

OBAMA: Thank you, Oprah. And I love you.

WRIGHT: At this point, the bar is so high even the believers are starting to doubt he can pull it off.

STEIN: We know we're being fooled, but we kind of like it. I can't get off his ride, it's too good.

WRIGHT: The potential for disappointment is as big as Texas. People's hopes have been raised so high. Young people hoping that Obama can redeem politics from mere partisanship, black people hoping he can finally achieve Martin Luther King's dream. White people hoping he can redeem America from the sins of slavery and segregation. It is hard to see how any politician, a mere human, can achieve all that, but it will be very interesting to watch.

-- ABC Nightline Correspondent David Wright; Video / MP3 Audio (via Scott Whitlock @ NewsBusters.Org)

"I'll collect paper cups off the ground to make his pathway clear"

BALTIMORE — Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings has held elected office for more than a quarter-century, so he's seen his fair share of politicians come and go.

But apparently he's never seen one quite like Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.

"This is not a campaign for president of the United States, this is a movement to change the world," he said as he introduced Obama last week in Baltimore.

"You do not get 13,000 people in this auditorium with a campaign."

As over the top as it may have sounded, Cummings' sentiments weren't all that unusual.

Because when it comes to Obama, hyperbole seems to be the rule, not the exception.

His charms seem tough to resist, even for some of Hollywood’s biggest names.

"He walks into a room and you want to follow him somewhere, anywhere," George Clooney told talk show host Charlie Rose.

"I'll do whatever he says to do," actress Halle Berry said to the Philadelphia Daily News. "I'll collect paper cups off the ground to make his pathway clear."


The true believers can “Obama-ize” just about anything. Knitters for Obama crochet for him, Runners for Obama jog for him, and Hold 'Em Barack, well, they bet on him.

In Chicago, a recent art exhibit showed works depicting the candidate on canvas, paper and even in animated videos.

On Etsy, a crafts auction website, you can buy Obama jewelry, paintings, and even a homemade Obama Valentine. The card shows a sketch of the candidate with the text, "I want to Barack your world."

Last week, Obama attracted a crowd of 19,000 to the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis.

Four days earlier, more than 18,000 voters filled Seattle's Key Arena to see him.

The 3,000 that didn't get in waited in the cold for over an hour to hear a roughly two-minute version of his stump speech.

When Obama finally took the stage, the crowd roared so loudly that a local reporter in the press section covered her ears.

At an Omaha, Neb., rally the day before, supporters leaned perilously over railings, screaming and crying, trying to touch Obama as he passed.

During both speeches, a supporter yelled out, "I love you." This happens fairly frequently and Obama is always ready with a smooth answer.

"I love you back," he says, with a quick, almost cocky smile.

The campaign works hard to cultivate the rock star image. After he's introduced, Obama routinely waits about 30 seconds to enter the arena.

The excitement grows, until his entrance is perfectly timed with the soaring chords of U2's “City of Blinding Lights.”

"I can't really verbalize exactly what it is about him," says Avila. "Part of it is just beyond explanation."

Lisa Lehrer, Politico Feb 20, 2008.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"It was like Barack Obama was INSIDE her head"

For Christena Weatherspoon of Struthers, it was like Barack Obama was inside her head.

After the Democratic presidential candidate’s 45-minute address to at Youngstown State University, Weatherspoon said she was speechless. She said, "It was like he knows what I want."

She was not alone in the crowd of about 6,800 supporters who packed Beeghly Center for Obama’s first campaign rally in Ohio and responded enthusiastically to his message of "hope and change."

William Binning, retired political science professor at YSU, called Obama a "phenomenon" . . .

"This guy has drawn in a whole new layer of support," Binning said. "For the youth here, this is the most significant political event of their lives."

As if to prove Binning’s point, Jared Jacobs, 17, drove all the way from Ashtabula to see Obama. Jacobs, who said he will be 18 in time to vote in the November election, said, "I’ll never forget this. It’s one of the best moments of my life."

Obama brings message of Hope, by Stephen Oravecz. Tribune-Chronicle February 19, 2008.

"the source of new hope on a parched land -- as rain from a Kenyan cloud"

Barack Obama, . . . has come like rain on American politics.

His campaign theme - 'the source of new hope on a parched land' is a cleansing agent in a land weighed down by crusted blood of Iraqis murdered in their own territory by Americans who came to save them from "weapons of mass destruction".

Obama has come as rain from a Kenyan cloud that seeded in the plains of Iowa and fell in Hawaii, but refuses to be tied down as just another "black candidate" pushing primarily for the restoration of justice for African-Americans by reminding white America of its guilt.

Instead, he insists on the freedom of a collective American Messiah who has come to mobilise all disillusioned children of American democracy to open up a new frontier in politics. This is Obama's venture of building hope using the power of hope.

Like rain, Obama must rouse new winds that will blow away drought, which drought will not depart without a fight. . . .

Barack Obama is uniquely placed to support the fruition of this dream knowing, as he now does, the sublime challenges of conducting political rain on a scale as grand, in terrestrial and human space, as the United States of America. May his rain come down to sprout a Union of Africa. To which some Nigerians say "Amen."

Okello Oculi, Daily Monitor February 20, 2008.

Monday, February 18, 2008

"Out of One, many rise to Believe Again"

Opponents want to dismiss that optimism as "false hope" because they think - or pretend to think - that Barack Obama represents no more than a charismatic political slogan that has even less value than one of the worthless products brilliantly hawked around the clock throughout our media.

Barack Obama is actually a bluesman from Chicago whose big stage is not in a nightclub or a concert hall but the huge national podium on which politics are argued. Obama knows that the blues always present the unvarnished problem and provide a solution through the rhythms and tones of engagement. It is, as the writer Albert Murray has observed, a music of confrontation, and it is presented in what amounts to a purification ritual.

Stanley Crouch, NY Daily News February 18, 2008

"the most powerful remobilization of historical and contemporary perspectives since the Popular Front movement"

In many ways, [Obama's] language recalls that of Walt Whitman whose Leaves of Grass sought to develop a synthetic construction of what America was like as a nation, linking together a range of individual experiences, memories, perspectives, sense impressions, to create a vision of the nation as one big organism. . . .

Obama is charting a map of the future by mobilizing what is most valuable, most precious in the nation's past. In doing so, he is constructing a shared mythology which speaks to us across historic divides in our national consciousness. Nothing could be further removed, say, than Edward's talk of 'Two Americas.' In Obama's version, there are at once many Americas, each self contradictory and refusing to be reduced to stereotypes, and one America, a collective intelligence ready to process all of that diversity and arrive at shared solutions to shared problems. . . .

Think of the speech as a mash-up of JFK, RFK, Ceasar Chavez, and Walt Whitman, delivered with the candences of Martin Luther King. Think of it as thus a new synthetic mythology for a new kind of knowledge culture. It may be the most powerful remobilization of historical and contemporary perspectives since the Popular Front movement of the 1930's. . . . My hope is that Obama's rhetoric may evoke a similar response in future generations and in that sense, it will be, to use a word Obama likes to talk about, 'transformative.'

Harry Jenkins, MIT "Obama and the 'We' Generation February 18, 2008.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Obama - "A Gift This Country Needs"

If you're wondering why Sen. Barack Obama's message of hope has resonated with so many voters across the country, consider the shooting rampage at Northern Illinois University.

Despite a decade of school shootings, we are never prepared for the horror of someone opening fire on innocent people, then taking his or her own life.

How is it that we live in a country where a young man can get his hands on four weapons, including a shotgun?

Why are people walking around armed to the teeth?

The only reason I can think of is that too many people have LOST HOPE.

We are living at a time when depression seems to be as common as a cold or flu. Yet what is depression but an impenetrable cloud of HOPELESSNESS?


Since [the Virginia Tech mass shooting], many parents of college-aged students have had to turn to their faith.

On the stump, however, Obama has had to defend his faith, and jokes about his critics calling him a "hopemonger." But Obama's ability to inspire people -- in urban areas as well as in rural towns -- is a gift the country needs.

Young people are killing each other in the ghettos as well as in our nation's universities. So it's not just drug wars or street gangs driving the violence.

But while young people are dying as martyrs, adults with the power to make a difference are still arguing over the merits of gun control.

Obama is surging ahead because a lot of people are tired of believing they are powerless to heal an ailing nation.

Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times February 17, 2008. (Via Say Anything).
* * *
School shootings = Hopelessness
Obama = Hope
Obama's Presidency = School shootings

Martin Luther King = Nelson Mandela = Barack Obama

As reported by the Huffington Post, the New York Times Bill Keller compares Obama to Nelson Mandela:

The executive editor of The New York Times, Bill Keller, sees "unmistakable" similarities between the campaigns of Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela, he said in a podcast interview on the paper's website.

The interview, done for the New York Times Book Review, is on the subject of Keller's young adult biography of Nelson Mandela, whom he covered. Asked about Obama, Keller calls him "fascinating."

From the audio transcript of the interview with Ben Keller, kindly via Ben Smith @ Politico:
You want to be careful about drawing historical parallels between societies that are so different, but there are a couple of similarities that, if you watch what happened South Africa, that are unmistakable in the Obama campaign.

One is the inspirational quality of it. Mandela, like Obama, although he wasn’t always the most riveting public speaker, was the kind of speaker who didn’t dwell on the details of his ten-point program, but went for emotional lift. He was appealing to the higher sense of purpose and history in his public appearances, as Obama does.

And the other thing is that both of them, in a way, transcended race — at least, to a degree transcended race. Colin Powell used to use this line when people used to try to draw him into conversations abot race and what it was like to be the first black secretary of state, the first black this, the first black that, and he would say, "I ain’t that black."

And what I think what he meant by that was not just that he was light-skinned, but that he didn’t grow up as preoccupied by race as a lot of other African-Amercans who rose to prominence. And something of the same thing can be said about either Mandela or Obama — that they somehow rose above race while still clearly being black.

As to be expected, Cynics and Doubters are interjecting that this is only a comparison of Obama's presidential campaign, not a comparison of the men themselves.
However, inasmuch as the campaigns are extensions of the campaigner, we suspect Keller may be simply tuning into an already-present Obasmic Vibe permeating the ranks of his followers. Consider:

  • A mural of Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Obama Barack by an artist circa. the CNN Democratic Debates. From the interview with the artist (MP3 download):
    [Artist:] "We wanted to do some kind of piece that illustrates his campaign and the change that America, the whole world is having. Barack's going to be the next person to take us to -- the next spot. Barack's going to bring the whole unit-, unit- the whole nation together - NO MORE Red States, NO MORE Blue States, ONE NATION."

    [In response to the question: What does Obama do that you feel warrants a comparison?]

    "Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King were both revolutionary figures. They did it because they were passionate about what they were doing. Barack's the same way. He hasn't been a senator for that long. But you know he's coming in here, he's doing it because he wants to, but also because he feels like he's CHOSEN to do this. You know our nation right now needs something, needs some CHANGE, needs something to SHAKE THINGS UP."

    [In response to the question: "You've obviously listened to a speech or two of his. What do you feel when he's speaking?]

    "Honestly, he gives me chills. When you listen to him, the only other person that can compare is Martin Luther King Jr.

  • From Barack-Obama.TV, a podcast interview in which Obama "discusses his tour of Robben Island prison where Nelson Mandela spent 27 years of his life and still maintained his spirit and vision." September 9, 2006.

  • Obama's First Coming (The Australian February 9, 2008), in which Washington correspondent Geoff Elliott recalls:
    IT was early 1994 when Nelson Mandela gave a speech in a slum outside Cape Town and spoke in grand terms of a new beginning and how when he was elected president every household would have a washing machine.
    People took him literally. A few months later he became South Africa's first black president. That's when clerks in department stores in Cape Town had to turn people away demanding their free washer and dryer.

    Having spent some time as a reporter in South Africa watching the Mandela presidency I was reminded of that story this week when I travelled with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on the campaign trail.

    How does a cult figure, in the eyes of some something akin to a messiah, make the transition to a political frontrunner - president even - where disappointment will soon crush what seemed to be a journey to a promised land?

    Looking into the faces of a more than 16,000-strong crowd in a basketball stadium in Hartford, Connecticut this week, the Mandela magic I'd seen before was there too. Black and white, and the youth; they appeared in a state close to rapture watching Obama speak. Here and there one could see women crying and the some men wiping away tears too.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

"Become One with Obama"

Obama Fan Poster, February 2007

Obama Saves Fainting Woman, ... er, Women!

In the news this week, at five different campaign stops 5 different women fainted (See James Taranto's "We Shall Be Overcome" Wall Street Journal 2/14/08 for a precise chronology), prompting Obama's attention and in some cases the bestowal of a water bottle.

Now, the usual cynics and unbelievers are dismissing this as "phoney, orchestrated, manufactured campaign theatrics", or even "physiological coincidence".

True Believers, on the other hand, will recognize this as yet another heavenly-bestowed opportunity for Obama to reveal his benevolent compassion -- or, as one post captioned the event: "Obama SAVES" (Girl from Hyperventilating and Dehydration!)