Saturday, November 15, 2008

Obama: a plea for sanity

A few moments ago, I was going through the long neglected news feeds on my Google Reader account (now there's a singularly unpromising opening line...) - the World News feed for the Guardian, to my dismay, had something like 738 unread stories on it! Yikes. How would I ever catch up with all that newsiness?

Well, 738 headlines later, it turned out I needn't have worried: nothing has happened. Absolutely nothing. There was an election somewhere (Glenrothes, or America, or some such place), but besides that the world's done nothing. Actually, that's not true, I think someone somewhere might have annoyed a bear and died, but besides that it seems the planet was too busy holding its collective breath until Obama got elected to be doing anything newsworthy. Frankly, it's a miracle the sudden collective exhalation on November 4th didn't cause a tsunami - thank goodness for Time Zones.

If I sound cynical about the whole thing, well, I'm not really. Just bored. Thoroughly bloody bored of the whole wearisome decade-long bloody election that still doesn't seem to be over even now that it is. Yes, it's lovely that America's found someone to burden with the task of living up to the unrealistic and contradictory dreams, hopes and expectations of billions worldwide - and disappointing at least half of them. And no, it couldn't have happened to a nicer person - poor guy (even if he does only have himself to blame). But does it fill me with hope?

Sort of. A bit. Maybe.

Oh, I don't know - I mean, isn't hope too precious to pin to just one thing? Especially a politician - even one who isn't George Bush, a moose hunter, or one heart attack removed from a moose hunter. Anyway, I'll certainly be leaving my hope where it is: sort of free-floating, generalised, and mostly unattached (much more difficult to lose it that way, I find, but that might just be me).

My real point, though, is that although I'm glad that by far the least Bush-like candidate won, and I really am, I can't help but be afraid that expectations of Obama have been raised so high already that he can only disappoint - whenever someone is so lionised by the media it only ever ends one way. Sure, I'd love it if that didn't happen, if he somehow didn't drown beneath the water everyone's expecting him to walk on, if he somehow managed to emerge from the economic, environmental and foreign policy minefield he's inherited without it all blowing up in his face, and if he somewhow emerged from the most potentially compromising role in the world without being compromised. But he's only human - and we're a disappointing bunch on the whole, aren't we?

But is that how the media will see it?

Just a couple of days after he'd won the race to stand beneath the biggest, most clangingly apparent sword of Damocles ever for the next four years, someone in the Guardian was already asking: Now that Obama has won, will the blogosphere turn against him?

Well, of course it will. Not just because the blogosphere isn't just one thing with one mind, it's lots of different people with vastly differing perspectives, so at least some of its denizens won't be happy (to be fair, the writer is actually talking about the Democratic blogosphere; but even there the point probably still holds). But mostly it'll turn because sooner or later he'll actually do something.

Instead of talking about change, he'll change something. Instead of saying, "Yes, we can", he actually will. And instead of saying, "Yay! Go Obama!", some of us will start saying, "Well, maybe he can, but I wish he wouldn't." In short, we'll discover what his policies actually are - and we won't like some of them.

And what will the media pick up on, what could possibly be the biggest, most newsy news story after so much hype and hope? Disillusion. The slightest hint of it and the media will remember, "Ah, we loaned a pedestal somewhere...", and send in the repo-men to take it back.

Of course, there's every chance it'll all go swimmingly (if not quite walking on water, that would still be quite an achievement), and that I'm completely wrong to even suspect that the mother of all media backlashes is waiting somewhere around the corner expectantly sharpening her disapproval. I would love nothing more than for Obama to make the world a better place. But...

There is other stuff happening. I'm sure there must be. I mean, there usually is, and sometimes it's even sort of important. And if we could hear about that instead for a while, please, that would be lovely. I mean, I get it, I really do; everyone's really excited; the world might be about to become a nicer place, and to an extent it already has. But come on, everyone's behaving as if the whole world's won the lottery. It hasn't. Not yet. It's just bought a ticket. So if we could just stop talking about the winnings - endlessly speculating, predicting and raising expectations beyond all reasonable limits - until we know what they are... well, that's just not going to happen, is it?

But hey, I can dream.... or wait, should that be dream I can? Or... (there. You see what this incessant Obama coverage is doing to me? And now I've just added it to it... Gah!).


Tim Footman said...

I just remember walking to work on May 2, 1997. It was a beautiful day, the sky was deep blue, everyone I passed seemed to be half-dancing, as if the Who Will Buy sequence from Oliver! had been transplanted to Wimbledon. Everything seemed better, and all because Tony Blair was Prime Minister.

Oh, tits.

How long will it take before we loathe Obama that much?

Occasional Poster of Comments said...

:) Yep, it's very difficult not to wonder if the other week will turn out to have been America's Tony Blair moment - so far, it all just has a slightly too strong tang of deja vu.

But who knows? I still can't quite manage to get excited just yet, but I'll at least be trying to keep an open mind.