Who to choose? Neil Young, Feist…

The CBC Radio 2 Obama playlist epitomizes our obsession with the man

Cory Falvo

By the time you read this, Barack Obama will have been inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States of America. After one of the most indelible political campaigns of all time he will find himself at the helm of the most influential political position in the world.

Countless articles of adoration towards the man have been penned, and many grown men and women have wept openly in public and in private at all that Obama’s presidency stands for.

Finally, if one is to believe in the monumental hype that surrounds Obama, the heavens just may part momentarily to reveal that he truly is the saviour of American politics.

Nevertheless, it is truly exhausting to follow the Obama whirlwind these days. With all due respect to the uniqueness of Obama’s political ascendance, and keeping in mind the importance of him being an African-American president in a country with such a racially tenuous past and present, the adoration that the general public of North America pays the man is beginning to border upon obsession.

We demand to know where Obama is and what he plans to do at all hours of the day. He has graced the cover and been featured in the stories of every major magazine and newspaper on the continent more times than one cares to count.

In a gesture tailored for a 21st century romance, the Canadian Broadcast Corporation feels it necessary to put to national vote which songs should be on the iPod playlist it plans to send the exalted one as an inauguration gift. The Winnipeg Humane Society has even offered to donate Obama that Labradoodle puppy he promised his two children on election night. At this rate, Obama should prepare himself for an onslaught of women’s underwear being thrown his way when he makes his much anticipated journey to Ottawa during his first official foreign visit as president.

All in all these instances of obsession become tedious quickly, and seem to miss the point that Obama is in fact not a movie star, musician, nor the reincarnation of Don Juan. He is a politician.

Even the national excitement over his decision to head to Canada on his first presidential visit seemed to overlook the fact that Ottawa is not that far away from Washington, D.C. If his first trip as president was to, say, Tokyo that would be a significant gesture. It makes sense for Obama to travel to Canada first – it is close and friendly and an important trading partner – but it does not mean he returns our love.

The Obama presidency begins with the major problem of the heightened expectations he will face throughout his term. Before it has even begun, he is expected to change the world. Never have the stakes been so high for a president, and it will be impossible for him to meet them all, regardless of the “uncertain economic times” that the U.S. and the rest of the world are now in. Ending the war in Iraq, introducing universal health care, or fixing the social security system by themselves would be a gold star on anyone’s presidential resume, but to expect all three and more from one president is absurd.

But that is the problem with obsession. You become so blinded by what you are obsessed with that you are willing to overlook its faults. In the case of the Obama obsession, the faults may not be of his own doing, but that does not mean the public will be let down lightly when their hopes for change are not fully met.

Andrew Tod is a University of Winnipeg student.

Published in Volume 63, Number 17 of The Uniter (January 22, 2009)

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