Monday, April 13, 2009

Beware the cult of Bo

Yes he can (I mean President Obama) express an opinion on EU foreign policy. Can anyone seriously suggest that America does not have an interest in the "geopolitical health" of the EU? The French President seems to (for more on the Turkey-EU remark and political storm). The American President's reply hit the nail though. Hadn't European leaders not liberally been commenting on US policy? Right on Monsieur le Président! How Europe treats Turkey will impact the USA and what goes on in Wall Street or in DC matters to Europe. US politics impact our lives in more ways than we care to think. Recently, I have been impacted by Obamania.
Reading Gene Healy's excellent book The Cult of the Presidency, America's Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power has been most enlightening. He argues that the Bush years had created a resurgence of "Imperial Presidency". Well, something a French citizen can perfectly relate to. France has a presidential system granting extensive executive powers to the president. Caricaturists often portray our presidents - not surprisingly - as kings or emperors (see February post "Yo c'est qui le roi?).

The US president wrote American history and seems like a nice person. American voters will be the judge of his policies. We can only hope for the best.... But when the cult of the presidency combines with a personality cult of unprecedented scope (read "Beware the cult of Obama"), no matter how cool President Obama may be, we in the old "ringardisée" (rendered uncool) Europe have reasons to be concerned too. And with all due respect, to express an opinion.
Indeed after President Obama's town hall meeting in Strasbourg, a 17 year old French lycéen confided to the magazine La Croix that "Son charisme est impressionnant, il rayonne. On a la chair de poule quand on l’entend, on est vraiment hypnotisé" - His charisma is impressive, he radiates light. It makes you shiver when you listen. You are like hypnotised.... The Obama cult only an American problem?
There are no statistics on whether his visit has given rise to lurid sexual fantasies amongst European women as is apparently the case in the USA (ref. "Beware" article) but the press frenzy surounding his visit (and the first lady's dresses) is certainly testimony to the Obamania and cultishness currently gripping Europe.

In Tokyo the face of the American brother is visible. Not conspicuously so but it pops up on a T-shirt in a line, a badge on a backpack, shelves in bookstores... Cults have shrines. The fishing village of Obama is hoping for pilgrimage status. Its souvenirs shop is already well stocked in Obama featured chopsticks.... I found an altar of sort in a Shinjuku bookstore. A new English teaching method was launched late last year. Essentially a "yes you can" teach yourself English by learning Obama's speeches (Obama speak?)
Notre première dame Carla Bruni no longer makes fontpage world news (no statistics on fantasies either but plenty of comments from French males). Madame Obama does. Yet just when the "Obamas go to Europe" buzz had abated a little, that it looked like we were going to get a break.... entered a new character in the thickening politico-pop culture plot: Bo le premier chiot (the first puppy)! Cute I thought for a moment. Then I come across this picture and decide it's time to speak out.

.Beware the cult of Bo!

PS: French singer Bo Frenchy (oui "Bo" comme le premier chiot et "Frenchy" as in French) got inspired by it all. So he wrote a song: "I wanna be your dog Barack". Funny. Or maybe just barking mad....

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