Barack and Michelle and the Cult of Personality

There is a 3,000-lb. granite monument that has been placed in a shopping center in Barack Obama’s hometown of Chicago to commemorate a certain act of his.

You will be forgiven if you cannot immediately recall any noteworthy accomplishments in this man’s life. Sometimes we choose to forget the things that most pain us.

You might have forgotten, for instance, that there is an effective unemployment rate in this country of around 14 percent. (Of course, our officially recorded unemployment rate is 8.3 percent, and it has been that way for a record 43 months.) It is a bitter pill, but it is real and it must not be forgotten. Is this the accomplishment of Obama’s that the Chicago shopping center chose to memorialize? No. But that is understandable, given Illinois’s painful unemployment rate of 8.9 percent.

Perhaps it is a commemoration of the day Obama decided to get tough with Iran, that enough was enough, that there would be no more mister nice guy; the day he gave that fierce warning to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that if he continued his pursuit of nuclear weapons, there would be hell to pay. This would seem a defining act worthy of glorification, but, unfortunately, no such act has yet occurred.

The monument in question stands sadly outside of a Baskin-Robbins and has a gold and black plaque bearing in golden text those immortal words spoken by Barack H. Obama:

“On our first date, I treated her to the finest ice cream Baskin-Robbins had to offer, our dinner table doubling as the curb. I kissed her, and it tasted like chocolate.”

Yes, the 1.5-ton monument celebrates Barack and Michelle Obama’s first kiss.

Now, for the average married couple, a first kiss is certainly of no small significance and may sometimes even be celebrated by the couple who shared the kiss. But a kiss is not an event (to the extent that it can be called an event) to which any third-party individual of sound mind would make a memorial.

That no grand, tribute-worthy achievement of Obama’s exists and that such a publicly insignificant act as a kiss has been paid public tribute is a testament to the personality cult that has surrounded and defined this, our first pop-culture, postmodern president. It would be understandable if Obama ended his term or terms in the White House as having been an overall success (don’t hold your breath for Obama to do the necessary act of flipping his policies 180 degrees in order for that to happen), and then, years later, after other monuments had been erected to celebrate that success, someone decided to erect a “fun” monument celebrating Barack and Michelle kissing.

But this kiss, and presumably other fun, cutesy things, are all that Obama’s supporters have going for them right now.

In fact, the monument is actually an excellent symbol for Obama: young, cool, novel. And it is an even better symbol for his presidency: trivial, superficial, worthless.