Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What America needs

With all the discussion about Presidential candidates, one thing that's mentioned a lot is Obama's "cult of personality". Sometimes it's mentioned negatively, as in that's all he has, and sometimes positively in the context of how he will inspire change.

Well here's my take on it: I'm of the opinion that America desparately needs a cult of personality right now. Kennedy's cult of personality inspired America to build a space-program that has been unmatched since by any nation or company. (And for those who question the practical value of the space-program, satellites have become a pretty essential tool in modern communications networks, and they're a product of the space program.) Reagan's cult of personality was probably more important than any of his policies in getting American past the economic doldrums of the '70's and early '80's. Outside of a few speeches immediately after 911, Bush seems incapable of inspiring a drowning man to swim. When asked what ordinary Americans could do to help the nation a few months after 911, the response was to travel and go shopping. Hardly the kind of spirit that defeated the Nazi threat, that's for sure.

We have the attitude of a defeated country right now. Never was this more clear to me than on my recent trip to eastern Europe. People expect things to work there. Trains run on time. As soon as I got back to the States, the abundance of things that were "out of order" was staggering. My connecting flight to KC was delayed over an hour while they tried to get the luggage count right. People on the plane just shrugged our shoulders and said, well, that's typical. In Kansas City, we can't figure out how to keep the sewage systems functional. Don't get me started on the suburbs, where the solution to EVERYTHING is: well, I guess we'll just have to move again.

What our country needs more than anything, in my opinion, more than tax breaks, more than universal health care, more than stimulus packages, is to simply believe we can do big things again. I doubt Obama can make that happen, but his cult of personality is the best shot we've got in my opinion.



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