Saturday, January 31, 2009

Obamamania -The Pros and Cons

The enthusiasm that President Obama has generated in the US and around the world has been mind-boggling. I even had to force myself to post a series of "Obama Gripes" to maintain my inner anti-authoritarian. The pro-Obama and pro-America feeling that has taken hold of the population is both exciting and worrisome.

First of all, we are recovering from one of the most hated administrations in American history. Part of our enthusiasm is because we feel like the good guys again. Our identity as a nation has been built on the idea that America is a place where justice will prevail in the end; no matter the odds. We fought for our right to exist as a nation. We have fought slavery and won human rights for women, minorities, children, immigrants, and laborers. The election of a black man to our nation's highest office is validation of the America we were taught to believe in back in elementary school.

It feels good to believe in America again.

And we need to believe in America now more than ever. In these dark economic times, faith in ourselves may be the only thing that sees us through another day. In my earlier explanation of our country's economic woes, I made a brief reference to the subjective nature of our money. The basic idea is this: a car will always have value as a car, a building will always have value as a building, but a dollar only has value if we all agree that it has value. A dollar is only worth what you can buy with it. Faith in our country is tied to faith in our money, therefore, Obamamania could play an important role in our economic recovery.

Now for the cons. I think most reasonable Americans are at least a little shocked at how Obama has risen to Messianic level worship.

I'll admit, I'm tempted to justify the mesmerization of the masses. I'm tempted to say that we need that level of unity and loyalty to weather the tough times ahead. On some level, I do believe that the sheep need to be herded, but I am still obligated to try to snap my fellow citizens out of their trance.

Faith, if allowed to give way to blind faith, can be very destructive. When the individuals in a group participate in "group think" by turning off their own conscience, sometimes called "drinking the Kool-Aid," the results can range from dismantling our own Constitution to invading other countries on flimsy justifications. When blind faith is complicated by tough times; the results can be even worse. Let's not forget that Hitler's rise to power was partly dependent on Germany's dire economic situation after WWI.

Fortunately, President Obama does not encourage such unwavering loyalty. He is not a "you're either with us or you're against us" kind of leader. He has gone out of his way not to appoint yes-men to his cabinet, and he seems more honest and straightforward than any politician in recent times.

But it is every citizen's duty to hold this administration accountable for everything it does and doesn't do. We must not be soothed by the romantic notion of the America we worshiped in elementary school. We must all be on edge and vigilant. This is our country, and this is our economy. We bear as much responsibility as those we elect to represent us.

Faith in America is not faith in Obama; it is faith in ourselves. So let us move forward with the positive energy and good-will of the times without letting our guard down and giving in to a pack-mentality.