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Cometh the hour

Tim Birch looks ahead to 'Obama time'

Published on January 21st 2009.


Cometh the hour

It was widely tipped that president-elect Obama’s inauguration speech would nod to Lincoln’s Gettysburg address: ‘Four score years…’ and the timing seems propitious. Just as Lincoln proved epochal, Obama’s presidential life is pegged on change. This is a new dawn for America – and, by extension, the world. And the man looks ready: Obama’s oratory and body language bear the weights of ‘power’ and ‘the past’ with a beguiling ease; his face is aglow, beaming out a tingling sense of history-in-the-making. Perhaps the most interesting, untold, part of the whole shebang is time itself.

Time is central to Obama’s story and the ensuing chapters that the man will now, and forever, share with his country. History is indelibly intertwined with Obama’s charge for change. And his will always be a story of endings as well as beginnings: ending the centuries-old struggle of black America to establish its credentials – manifest in a black president.

Of course, time is nothing new to Americans. Westward Expansion, culminating with California, was a time-based process that created the product: the nation state. Whoosh forward to the twentieth century – history’s rush hour – and references to time were everywhere: ‘What time is it?’ became the rallying cry of liberal and progressive people. On the flip side, ‘You don’t even know what time it is’ vied with less savoury phrases as the worse put down in human communications.

Now in the twenty-first century, time has become the most precious of all non-renewable resources. It touches everything: even the hot topic of the environment has its clock metaphor (‘time is running out to save our planet’). And just as human life seems hell bent on speeding up, we have ever less time to do ever more things. So how will Obama fare with his time in office?

We cannot yet know of Obama’s performance under real pressure; what the outgoing president and many of his fellow Americans of either political persuasion believe is the ultimate test of a homeland incident like 9/11 (forever signified by its moment in time). Yet conjecture does allow a general picture. He will lead by example an administration that remains calm, considered, and consistent. The public will appreciate Obama’s charm and steadiness; politicians of all sides will appreciate Obama’s resolve and commitment; editors and broadcasters will appreciate Obama’s x-factor but they may perversely tire of his polished professionalism and it will be intriguing to see how much the media will snipe at him.

As always, time will tell. For there are only two modes of time: ‘constant’ and, to echo Obama, ‘change’. The former is the endless flow and blurring together of mundane moments whereas the latter is the pivotal point, epochal event or rare epiphany. The former is constant; the latter random. Life is both modes, merged as one (for an instant icon, picture a life support machine: its constant line yet its bleeping peaks).

Whereas constant time describes the daily grind of government, it is the latter – the pivotal points like 9/11 – that usually define presidents and presidencies. Presidents are sometimes all too aware of the pivotal points in their story – a vanity that risks hoodwinking the story of America as their own. But given today’s 24-7 society and the saturation levels of professional and lay media, along with a renewed, unbridled enthusiasm for American politics, there will be relentless scrutiny of both the mundane and the pivotal points of Obama’s presidency as every tick turns to tock. Meanwhile let me tempt fate ahead of time, on the eve of ‘Obama time’: This will be a presidency that is more aware of, more honest to, both modes of time. And that will suit America and the world.

The twenty-first century starts now.

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7 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

sarah PJanuary 21st 2009.

You betcha!

Ker...bang!January 21st 2009.

Who says Obama is black?It is never mentioned on his website or in his publicity handouts.His racial origins are like some shameful open secret but it will be the color of his skin that will surely determine his fate.

Holy Armageddon Batman!January 21st 2009.

Total breakdown of Christian society? Brilliant! Can't wait. That should mean an end to those wonderful creations of so-called Christian societies, such as brutal greed based wars, forcing their dubious morality and human bondage upon nations and peoples, the creators of holly wars, the slave trade, concentration camps and gas chambers. Just a shame that the alternative seems to be another lot of medieval superstition based hokum.

paul tyrerJanuary 21st 2009.

Obama is doomed to fail. He will try and implement an even handed, fair trade policy and his destruction will be engineered by a massive increase in oil prices, loss of confidence on Wall Street and an enforced confrontation between black and white politicians. He is carrying a target on him even now, the iconic potential of the first black man (and he is black despite the photographic touching up) will be lost to the first gun nut with a grudge.

a. theistJanuary 21st 2009.

The bible is for freaks and weirdos with no life. If you want a decent read get ViZ, NUTs or GQ, th ey are real reads.

DigJanuary 21st 2009.

The Illuminati helped Obama to get where he is today. The U.S. has lost huge international trade and respect. Obama is the pawn to help restore that.

Kevin daleyJanuary 21st 2009.

Osama has started badly. A campaign designed to make him look white and sound like Kennedy (so sad, so much missed by all of us)and a sickeningly cynical p.r. team pulling the strings.Obama is a deceitful freemason with dubious contacts in the black power and Islamic brotherhoods of chicago.What will happen to him? He will be used as a sacrifice by Illuminati forces within America and his assassination will trigger world war 3 and the total breakdown of christian society.NO? Just read the Bible, it is all there for anyone with eyes to see.

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