LETTERS

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November 7, 2008

Promises of change leave much to be desired

Only one detail is missing from the idyll: the fact that Barack Obama has made it clear he has no intention of practically moving with us toward the beautiful land that we see in him.

It was fun. It was beautiful. More moving than a tear-jerking movie. And also, unfortunately, no more closely connected to reality.

Rarely have I felt such warmth toward my fellows as I did strolling Tuesday night through Grant Park, watching our collective hopes and dreams rise and fall on the big screen of CNN. Never have I seen a politician so skillful at painting our lives in a grand march toward utopia. How could we not feel a togetherness unimagined? How could we not pray to every god for our victory—because it was certainly our victory, a victory of all our ideals projected onto the calmest smile and the coolest oratory on the planet?

Only one detail is missing from the idyll: the fact that Barack Obama has made it clear he has no intention of practically moving with us toward the beautiful land that we see in him. The people voted for the image that we created through Obama, and it was certainly an image worth voting for. But it would be our own fault if we believed that the new president would do a thing to realize the ideals we’ve projected onto his great, round, empty landscape. Unless we force him to it.

It is true that life is nothing without art. And no artist is more brilliant now than Barack Obama. He deserves our tears and our respect. He also deserves now to hear our demands.

The curtains have been closed. The dream show is over. It’s time to stand up and stretch our muscles. It’s time to turn our dreams into reality. And to realize that we are going to get little help from above, aside from more beautiful shows.

I therefore suggest a first demand we could make to the President-elect, a precondition for the kind of Change that we have come to desire: abolish the office of the president and replace it with a national performer-in-chief. The new officer’s job would be to inspire us, not to realize our aspirations. This would, for the most part, be nothing more than a change of titles, since it is already what Obama has promised to do. But it would at least place our hopes in their proper place: outside the White House and in ourselves.

Joe Grim Feinberg

Ph.D. Candidate in Anthropology