Saturday, December 6, 2008

All Your Myths Are Belong to Obama

Via Kotaku:

Out of all the things one could talk with President-Elect Obama, someone apparently brought up this: "All your base are belong to us." That's right, the funny English phrase from Zero Wing turned internet meme. In a one-of-us-one-of-us thread over at Scifi site in which Obama's geekatude is being discussed, one commenter recounted a story from a friend who claims to have interned for the Obama presidential campaign:

The job involves getting him something to eat, maybe playing a little basketball with him, and basically chatting and getting whatever he needs between important things. During the conversation, apparently Zero Wing came up.

You know, the Sega Genesis video game. I don't know how.

And apparently, my friend made the off-hand comment of "All your base are belong to us".

And Obama leaned forward in his chair, quirked his eyebrow a bit, and responded "What you say?"

Presidents are not normal people. You do not meet them on the street; you do not have anything significant in common with them. They are utterly beyond the reach of normal men.

Even Obama, who presented himself as an everyman, and in many ways is one, is still the instrument of a vast political machine; he has his 'handlers,' though he may resent them; he is a Democrat, the chosen son of the vast and faceless apparatus of government. The transformation of a man from a long-shot candidate to the world's most powerful human being cannot leave him untouched; by being elected, he has left his mortal vestiges behind.

Like the Greek gods, presidents are beyond approach. They are very like humans, but of a higher order, with vastly greater power. Therefore, just like the Greeks did with their gods, we mythologize Obama. Every subculture seeks to make him their own (Except the Republicans).

The story from Kotaku shows exactly how this is done. The rumor establishes Obama firmly as part of the nerd culture--along with the better supported stories that he is a Trekkie. The veracity of the rumor does not matter. This is how subcultures identify with the unapproachable divine--they create a myth and thus make the divine a patron of their particular beliefs, and thus more accessible.

Apollo, god of reason, light, wisdom, music, the cave, wolves; Athena, wisdom, olives, war, the eponymous city. Each god's domains relate, but not closely. Study the evolution of the myths of these gods and you will see how greatly they vary over time and from place to place, as each era and culture makes a deity their own.

It is our natural instinct to make Obama the president of whatever group we most identify with, whether or not it's true.

Obama, patron god of change, the American Dream, African Americans, post-racialism, internationalism, basketball, grassrootsism, and geek chic.

We make him not the country's president, but our president.


  1. Newsweek documented Obama's obsession with Star Trek -touching Michelle Obama's belt and talking of dilithium crytstals.

    Furthermore, Obama's love of Spiderman comics has been documented on The Colbert Report.


  2. Like I said, the veracity of the myths does not affect their impact. Do you think it is coincidence that Obama allows these glimpses of his more human side out? It only makes him easier to mythologize.