Barack Obama ran a momentous, historic campaign by stirring the imaginations of voters across a broad demographic. After two tortuous terms of ignored promises, failed policies, deception, cover-ups and denial, under a banner of “Hope,” Obama apparently appealed to many who found hope about all they had left. We reasoned that without hope, our nation was doomed. Hope, along with an intelligent, charismatic candidate who fought hard to avoid the “low road” of what has become the typical path to power in America, inspired us to want and expect more. Obama’s rally’s were positive. Amid scurrilous accusations of every possible type, attacks on his character, race, heritage, patriotism, motives, past, character, spouse, pastor and even his citizenship, president Obama stayed on message. In it, supporters found the courage to dream that the torment of America’s recent past could somehow reverse…that America could live up to its promise of being a land of the people, for the people, governed by the people.
Things had become so bad in America for so many that hope became a clarion call to action that galvanized weary, jaded voters as well as young idealists, first-time voters, minorities, organized labor, the disenfranchised, along with people of faith young and old alike, who turned out in record numbers to elect the first man of color to the highest office in the land.
“Hope” felt good. Unfortunately, as it became a rallying cry and slogan, it also became a marketing tool. Advertisers, marketers were quick to notice that the concept of hope could be reduced to a branding tool…something useful to sell product…a stamp that helps turn ordinary items into something special.
Obama won, making hope as pedestrian and ubiquitous as “I’m loving it,” “Just Do It,” or “Can You Hear Me Now?” As “hope” is pasted on the posterior of a post-pubescent lingerie model, one might assume that hope’s done for…but I hope not. As I see president Obama wrestle with unprecedented partisanship, as I see Congressional votes on the most basic bills, ones that seem to be “no brainer” repeatedly break down along strict party lines, as I see empty but inflammatory rhetoric replace substantive issue-based argument, as racial slurs appear on signs, unrestricted and even sanctioned by the Republican Party, I wonder: Has “hope” jumped the shark?”
Are we destined to a hopeless future? Is there no way to rise above the banality of a nation reduced to chest-thumping, posturing, threatening, punishing and double-talk or can we rise above it to find a modicum of unity and reason sufficient to usher America into a new Renaissance? Seeing hope on the fanny of a lingerie model is disappointing. At least I think so.
The United States is a commercial entity. Commerce fuels our cemocratic republic. Even so, if all we are as a nation is product or products, if noble intentions are trumped by runawat consumerism, if “hope” becomes merely something we sit on, we deserve what we get.