Amazing State of the Union show by Obama; impressive rhetorical strategy that began with his accomplishments, then he laid out his proposals, then he softly (skillfully) revealed Republican hypocrisy, and finally he appealed to our emotions as human beings. Obama’s latter technique of appealing to the nation’s emotions ensured that the last thing viewers will remember is not necessarily that his proposals are not new or that most of his proposals will never see the light of day in a Republican-controlled congress, but that Obama knows how to string words together to make us all feel hopeful, make us feel like we can move mountains, and make us feel like he deeply wants everyone to work together for the good of America and the world. After watching the speech, it is hard not to love Obama more. He is my favorite president. And who doesn’t love a great show and the star of the show? Yet I wonder—what do we love?
Do we love the brilliance of Obama’s performance? Do we love his proposals though we know they will go nowhere? Do we love the theater he gave us—the Spanish couple, the freed Cuban prisoner; and the statistics that spoke about growth in numerous sectors, such as economy and education, though the present reality of a significant number of Americans isn’t aligned to that evidence of growth? Do we love the references to China’s economic dominance and keeping jobs at home as he has done in all previous State of the Union shows?
Do we love the equal pay proposal for women, overtime-pay equality, rejection of the lobbyist culture, references to closing Guantanamo Bay, drone warfare necessity and global warming urgency? Do we love the greatness of his speech, or do we love the truth that most of Obama’s regurgitated vision will never become law? And perhaps some of us love that Obama shows a determination to fight though he is in his weakest position in terms of his ability to influence legislation in the Republican congress. If this latter observation is true, are we in love with drama, the politics of battle? Or are we in love with realistic policies that will really improve our lives?
I always wonder why people get so excited after watching a performance in which sentences and proposals are merely scrambled and repackaged year after year. It’s sad observing even informed people demonstrate a lack of consciousness of their own role as political pawns. Throw a toy bone to the dog! The dog will chew for a good while until it realizes the bone isn’t filling its belly. The dog will even go back to chewing the bone day after day.
I’m not mad at Obama at all. He is doing what politicians are supposed to do. And he needs to do that; so I celebrate him for that. But I worry about us—that we forget Obama is performing a show. We forget we are the audience, and that Obama took the stage after many rehearsals under the tutelage of some of the most brilliant rhetoricians that studied the art of the stage of persuasion and performance. I worry because many comments aren’t addressing the brilliance of the show; many comments are instead acting as though Obama’s proposals are realistic and change in really on the way.