Obama is walking on Mars

Obama is on Mars.

OK, now that I’ve got your attention, here’s what I’m getting at; no human being on Earth has been where Barack Obama is right now. Not one. There is no role model for Barack to study, no roadmap to follow, no previous model to emulate. He is, in every sense of the word, a Stranger in a Strange Land.

Not to say he isn’t handling the challenge extremely well. But the plain – and often overlooked – fact of the matter is that what Obama is doing has never, ever been done. This means that he is confronting crises, dilemmas, situations, and dramas that have no answers in the presidential campaign handbook. Which means he has essentially been forced to become a master of jazz improvisation – a Charlie Parker, if you will – in the space of less than two years. And even Charlie could lean on a few notes from Louis Armstrong.

But as an African American man with a white mother from Kansas and an African father raised for a significant portion of his life in Hawaii and Indonesia…? How does such a one prepare for this? How is he supposed to be just precisely exactly black enough for black folks yet not exactly precisely too black for white folks?  How is he supposed to show he cares sufficiently for the problems faced by all Americans, and yet show that he possesses just precisely enough of that extra amount of empathy for the darker tribes deriving from his multiracial heritage? But then at the same time make sure it doesn’t appear he’s being too empathetic to make the white folks suspicious?

You must be that SuperBrother guy, right?

You must be that SuperBrother guy, right?

I do realize that just about every columnist and every blogger who even vaguely dabbles in things political feels compelled to comment about Obama at regular intervals, even when there isn’t that much to say. After all, he’s Barack Obama. And in that spirit, I’m doing my best to refrain from posting too frequently about the man because of the sheer volume of words that have already been expended in an attempt to frame him and reframe him and on and on.

Saying all that to say I’m trying to keep this one somewhat brief. But over the past weeks and months I’ve had numerous discussions and debates with both Obama supporters and detractors. And although I can understand some of the arguments by the detractors (I’m very much a supporter) the one thing that I think tends to get missed by those who insist that Obama is drifting too far to the right or is not paying sufficient attention to the issues of black people is that the man is each and every day negotiating his maneuverability in strange and oftentimes hostile territory. There is no one around who can truly tell him the known best move to make when he confronts those ‘alien’ moments that only Barack recognizes for what they are. This is not to say Obama isn’t surrounded by great advisors – probably the best of whom is his wife, Michelle – but at the end of the day he’s left alone on stage with nothing but a horn in his hand, a huge audience, and constant screaming demands to create yet another new and brilliant score using notes that haven’t even been imagined yet.

To expect a flawless composition under these terms and conditions is, well, a bit much. Of course he’s going to make some screw-ups, some of them major. There is no such thing as flawless improvisation, only daring improvisation guided by that peculiar sort of vision amplified by both wisdom and history. After all, the only way to move forward is when the wind is at your back.

Obama is truly walking on Mars.

SHAMELESS PLUG: READ MY WIFE’S BLOG @ http://thedspotredeux.blogspot.com


~ by Keith A. Owens on July 31, 2008.

4 Responses to “Obama is walking on Mars”

  1. Okay, while I completely agree with you on the politics of this post, I have to go with Miles Davis over Charlie Parker…

  2. Hey Kurt.

    Man, I dunno about that. I’m a HUGE Miles fan, and his style music is more in tune with what I like in jazz. I like that he transcended boundaries and kept expanding all the way to the end. Matter of fact that’s what I like about him most. He refused to stay locked in place.

    But Charlie’s mastery of that instrument and of the form? I mean, Charlie Parker was one of the first – if not THE first – cat he made it a point to hook up with when getting started in New York. I think this is after he dropped out of Juilliard. The other essential hookup, of course, was Dizzy. Anyway, read Miles’ Autobiography if you haven’t already.

    And thanks for stopping by!

  3. I so agree! He is truly swimming in uncharted waters.

  4. Kim,

    Thanks for dropping by!

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