Selwyn Duke
Barack Obama: chairman of the bored
By Selwyn Duke
April 16, 2009

Perhaps I was wrong about Barack Obama. Maybe his words can bring peace to the world. That is to say, if he keeps talking, he just may put all the world's peoples to sleep and keep them that way.

This became evident during Obama's recent European trip. Despite the fact that Obama shares the Old World's socialist vision — and contrary to the image lent by the media's inundation of us with footage of fawning European crowds — some of that continent's denizens find him more sandman than savior.

One of these anomalous individuals (although I suspect they will one day, in a political universe far, far away, transition from anomalous to average) is Telegraph columnist Iain Martin, who wrote a piece titled "Barack Obama really does go on a bit." Martin points out that while he welcomed Obama's victory "as offering the possibility of a fresh start and a boost to confidence . . . ." (I look forward to the day when this transitions from disclaimer to hard-to-extract confession), he also asks, ". . . am I alone in finding him increasingly to be something of a bore?" He complains that Obama's "speeches have long under-delivered, usually leaving a faintly empty sensation in this listener" and concludes with, "I'll wager that within a year or so he'll be marked down as a wind-bag." Well, with a bet like that you can gain a few pounds, old chap.

Perusing the more than 300 comments attending Martin's article, it's obvious he's not alone. Yet what explains the contradiction here, the disconnect between Obama's Wizard of Oz image and the man-behind-the-curtain reality? It's simple: the image is the media's handiwork, but the reality is better explained by Hannah Arendt's famous phrase "the banality of evil."

Unfortunately, most people's understanding of evil reflects modern portrayals of it. Let's consider Hollywood depictions, for instance. They have always been a tad fanciful but today have less acquaintance with reality than ever. We saw the character Hannibal Lecter, the cannibalistic psychiatrist with inerrant insight into man's nature; the larger-than-life, almost-superhuman criminal Max Cady in the remake of Cape Fear; and the philosophizing hit men in Pulp Fiction.

In reality, though, evil isn't all that interesting. Serial killers obsess on satisfying their own distorted nature, not understanding man's; and hit men's conversations are typified by profanity, not profundity. It is superficiality that attends the sinister, not sagacity.

As far as more "sober commentators" go, they should know that our Hussein doesn't have to be equated with Iraq's Hussein for my point to be valid. We don't have to know whether or not Obama's heart is dark as pitch. Evil often takes subtle forms, such as indifference to Truth and the living of a lie — and the emptiness that results.

For instance, many have made light of Obama's assertion that knowledge of when a baby attains human rights is "above his pay grade." But while it was a flippant dodge, it was no joke. To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, "If we think about any issue for long enough, there is a real danger we will discover the truth about it." Obama has clearly avoided that danger — and abdicated his responsibility as a being gifted with reason. It reminds me of when David Letterman hemmed and hawed upon being asked by Bill O'Reilly if he wanted the U.S. to win in Iraq. When O'Reilly pressed him, saying it was a simple question, Letterman responded, "Not if you're a thinking person." Really? Actually, Dave, if you were a thinking person, you would have already thought about the issue in-depth and would have had an answer at the ready. A thinking person doesn't wait to be asked to start thinking.

My point is that there is a reason why Obama seems boring.

It's because he is.

He exhibits the banality typical of a moral relativist. He doesn't believe in Truth; thus, he doesn't search for it, and for this reason doesn't find much of it. This makes such people empty, and when there's nothing of substance within to emerge, you're boring.

Another common manifestation of this spiritual defect is verbosity. Brevity isn't just the soul of wit, but also wisdom. Things that are worthy are seldom wordy. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount took approximately 20 minutes, our Constitution can be read in just over half an hour and God gave us only ten commandments. In contrast, government imposes more than 250,000 laws (and counting) nationwide; Fidel Castro was well-known for interminable speeches — during one seven-hour marathon he actually passed out (lamentably, he regained consciousness, living to drone on another day); and Bill Clinton's calorie-laden memoirs, My Life, weighed in at nigh on 1000 words. Try flushing that down a toilet.

What explains this wordiness? Well, it's like that old quip about how you make money peddling a worthless product. The answer? Volume.

Obama isn't the Ten Commandments; he's the tax code. Yet, like many empty vessels, he exhibits a fault of which Martin made note. The journalist talked about how Obama can't seem to stop saying things such as "When I was born" and "Few people would have predicted that someone like me would one day become an American President." (If Obama means a closet-communist urban rube weaned on bigoted rhetoric in a black-power church, yes, few predicted it. And I think he's surprised in a way himself; it's a real triumph of Media Matters over mind.) What is this fault? It's called solipsism.

And the following apocryphal saying completes the picture, "Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people." Along with his solipsism, it explains why Obama likes to discuss his favorite person: himself.

This also relates to something Martin gives Obama credit for: a "preternatural calm in the spotlight." This reflects a man who truly believes in himself. The problem is that he believes in only himself. And we should all pray that when this faith is shattered — as it will be — the American dream won't be collateral damage.

© Selwyn Duke


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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