Thursday, January 22, 2009

Making an Obamanation out of Simple Responsibility

We have a new President, and I know a lot of people are excited about that, but I've got to tell you, the Obama-rama is really starting to annoy me.

Frankly, this doesn't even have to do with President Obama himself. (That's a separate issue.) It's the "celebrating a new era" that really is the old era for most of us, just with fancier dressing. Case in point is a YouTube video about how Obama is ushering in a "new era" of personal responsibility. I won't post the YouTube link because I refuse to submit anyone to such schmaltzy feel-good celebrity back-patting. Essentially, you have about 15 seconds of flashy OBAMA hype followed by a bunch of celebrities smiling as they pledge to do the kind of things ordinary people have been doing for ages:
* be a good mother (WHAT was she before?)
* help feed the poor (been doing that for years myself--is this a new idea?)
* find a cure of Alheimers (with her theater degree?)
* I pledge to CONTINUE my work for Unicef (so she's already been doing something good, but now that Obama is President, it's special?)
* consider themselves a American and not an African-American (This one makes me especially furious because its what we ALL should have been doing for ages.)

What is boils down to is "I pledge to take part in propagandizing responsible behavior as as something newly inspired by the Obama administration."

It's along the lines of all those commercials of movie stars who were nowhere near New York nor had family there talking about how 9-11 has traumatized them and changed their lives. By airing their personal pain, they trivialize the people who were experiencing real pain--and not just in the US. In the same way, this "celebrate Obama" video trivializes the millions of ordinary citizens who don't pledge but have actually been good parents, worked for charities, spent years of studying in order to become the kind of people who can find a cure for Alzheimer's, continue working for a charity (big or small) without advertising themselves, and have not bought into the need to separate themselves from our joint heritage by making themselves a sub-section of the American people.

Are we really such a spoiled brat people that we need to wear our tragedies like badges of honor and our responsibilities like a medal?

I wish I had the resources to make a counter video. I'd show my friend, living alone in Alaska with six kids while her husband is deployed to Korea. There's a good mom.
I'd show people actually working in the soup kitchens and doing food drives like they have for years. They are feeding the poor. I'd show the PhD who can't afford a nice car because he's still paying off student loans while he does post-doc work in neurology. He's our best hope to find a cure for Alzheimer's.

And I'd post this guy. Here's someone who has been looking past his color to look at the issues not because it's the new "cool."

One more thing: this is an interesting take on the "difference" between what Bush and Obama say. Skip the sarcasm in the beginning but look at the clips from their speeches:

Guess what? Some things never change--they just want you to believe they have.


Philangelus said...

Well, now that they're going to feed the poor,I guess you and I don't have to do it any longer. I'll also stop knitting for the homeless and let these guys bring stuff. And they can mother my kids. You know, change really is good!

Andra said...

The gliz, hype and sarcasm that was used thoughout all of Obama's campaign will probably continue thoughout his presidentcy.

The superficial, look at me and how good I am era has begun.

Maria Zannini said...


You hit it right on the head.

Christine Trollinger said...

Could not have said it better myself. Like we need an Obot celebrity to tell us to do what we have done all of our lives? I think not.

We shall shoulder on without prod's from the wing nut celebrities who think we care what they are doing to be seen and heard like they are really the only ones who have a clue.

Maybe to really do something for this nation they ought to clean up their lives before they start preaching to the real backbone of America...the Mom and Pop's and families who actually care about others.

Joyce Anthony said...

While many of us have been doing this all along, the majority have not. I don't agree with "announcing" what I do, but it is a fact of life that many will take up a cause and help if they see celeberties do so. In the end, isn't the action created more important than how it was created?

Penny Ehrenkranz said...

If the American people's faith in a new president brings change, for the better, than I'm all for it, regardless of the hype that surrounds it. I avoid newspapers, you tube, and t.v. news shows, so I guess I'm also avoiding the hype. Personally, I'm glad people are excited about doing something good.

Karen and Robyn - Writing for Children said...

I personally don't hold much stock in campaign talk and promises - that's the name of the game.

While it is history making, time will tell about the rest.

Mschenten said...

Put me with the people who think that if this gets more people to be aware and helpful, more power to them.
It's easy enough to not get caught up in "the hype" if you don't want to, but if it helps people get along and do good things, bring it on!

Philangelus said...

I guess there is that moment when the disciples tell Jesus a man is casting out demons in his name but without permission, and should they call down fire from heaven on him. And Jesus says, "Leave him along. If he's not against us, he's for us."

If Obama motivates people to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, the poor will be fed and the naked clothed. And that's good in and of itself.

The difficulty for me is the idea that these things were IMPOSSIBLE before, and the assumption that political conservatives don't feed the poor etc, and that we need to pledge our fealty to the man who is president rather than to the Presidency, the Constitution, or the Nation.

In eight years when Obama leaves office, will they continue doing good, when their demagogue is no longer at the helm? What if he disappoints everyone? Will they then go back to not feeding the poor, not curing cancer? (I hope not "not being a good mom".)

Karina Fabian said...

I guess I don't feel this video is going to motivate anyone to do more. I just don't see someone saying "Look! Starlet from Friends is going to cure world hunger! I want to, too!") And if someone needs a new political leader to be a good mom, then there's a problem deeper than politics, there.

I would not have objected to a video showing real people doing real work--like I said, the doctor who is actually working to cure Alzheimer's as opposed to the 20-something starlette.

I'm also insulted at the whole presentation. Phit hit it on the head for me--this has never been a poliitcal issue. If Obama and his supporters want to start a campaign for increasing works of charity, the GO FOR IT! But, please, don't turn it into a political issue and don't congratulate yourself for promising to do something you should have already been doing.

Thanks, all, for commenting here. I posted about this blog on a lot of groups and got put down for being political. The point is that this should not be politics.

Mschenten said...

If you're going to say that Obama was involved in instigating this, it's going to be political.

Margaret said...

It's weird, but on issues like this I often find myself straddling the fence. Yes, I can see how to those who have been following the mantra of personal responsibility, something like this comes across as insulting as if it's a new idea and no one has been doing it.

But at the same time, I'm exposed to people every day who don't get it. These are often the same people who follow what the celebs say, who think that if X movie star thinks it's a good idea that it must be without any thought process between those steps. If these campaigns that are set out to appeal to that group can make the first step in returning personal responsibility into our general culture, I say more power to them.

Think of it this way...when I was a kid, if I slipped on a crack in the sidewalk, it was brush yourself off, laugh a bit at your foolishness, and keep going. Now? It's sue the city for the crack, the small business for inadequate lighting, and the kid who couldn't help sniggering at my pratt fall. If you think I'm kidding, look up the house robber who successfully sued for damages when he got caught in the sky light of the house. Or the taxi cab driver who pinned a purse thief, who was running away, with his car and got sued.

So really, the message here is that that video isn't directed at anyone who understands personal responsibility and helping others. It's sad that it made you feel forgotten and your existing efforts co-opted. At the same time, if it has an impact on its target audience, if it increases awareness of responsibility not only for what you do but also for what you don't do, then maybe it has a place in this world of "Not Me."

agnes dee said...

I hope it's not just a case of the phrase "personal responsibility" being co-opted for political gain. I don't equate the phrase with government expansion or intervention.

Karina Fabian said...

I didn't say Obama instigated this, but rather, he's being used as an excuse.

Good works should be beyond politics and it's dangerous to politicize it, to tie it to a single mortal.

Margaret, my concern is that, as Agnes said, it's being tied to a personality. What if we get a republican in four years? What if Obama lets people down?

Margaret said...

I'm with you there, Karina. If this becomes so tied to Obama that when he leaves, be it 4 or 8 years from now, people just quit, that's horrible.

If he serves as a motivation to turn the US as an overall back into a culture of personal responsibility and of helping others, then it's wonderful.

The sad thing is that we won't know which until it's too late. But we can keep doing our things and hope our continuation will be enough of an example to follow.

Karina Fabian said...

Well, it comes down to making this about personal responsibility and not hype. Like I said, I want to see a video with real people actually doing all the things these celebs "pledge" to do. If I had the resources, I'd do it. But I've pledged myself to other things right now.