Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Barack Obama, Shaman
By Michael Knox Beran | Wall Street Journal | July 30, 2008
In the patois of punditry, "charismatic" has come to mean little more than "like a rock star." But the striking thing about the charismatic leader is the extent to which his followers regard him as a healer of wounds, an alleviator of pain. In this sense, surely, Sen. Barack Obama is charismatic. The carefully knotted ties and the dark, conservatively tailored suits only accentuate the exoticness of his shamanism; he has entered the American psyche not as a hero but as a healer.
The country, or much of it, has longed for such a figure, a man from the once-oppressed race whose rise to power will atone for the sins of slavery and racial stigmatization. But Mr. Obama's rhetoric encompasses more than a promise of racial healing. He is not the first politician to argue that politics can redeem us, but in posing as the Adonis who will turn winter into spring, he revives one of the more pernicious political swindles: the belief that a charismatic leader can ordain a civic happy hour and give a people a sense of community that will make them feel less bad.
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