If a politician’s face is a chance for America to save face, if the story behind the face reads like one man’s dream about America, taking us from the Aloha State to his inauguration as president of the United States, if the hope never ends and the hype never dies, then the story of Barack Obama by Barack Obama is another chance for fans to ignore the facts and idolize this man’s face.
The story begins with Obama’s exhibition catalog of a memoir, A Promised Land. Published by Crown, the title alludes to prophets and kings, and Martin Luther King. The cover photograph is a separate allusion to Obama as a bridge from white versus black to a black-and-white image of the nation’s first president of color. The photograph furthers the allusion of peace in defiance of hate, of the march for voting rights and Obama’s election by a majority of voters.
The photograph is an illusion.
The photograph is a cover for a volume of distortions, not unlike the portraits by Obama’s predecessor and accidental distortionist, George W. Bush. But, where Bush works with oils, Obama works with ink to create a deliberate misrepresentation of domestic and foreign policy. The result is a 768-page collection of landscapes, still lifes, street scenes, cityscapes, and caricatures.
To read these works is to view a mislabeled collection of naïve art.
Take, for instance, Obama’s rendition of the land of Egypt and the Holy Land. The former is a jumble of cream against a horizon of desert and sun, while the latter crowns him in light as he lowers his head in prayer. The rest is background, minus Obama’s attempt to insert himself in the foreground of the living and the dead, writing his name in the pages of history and revealing his likeness in the carvings of ancient history.
He sees himself on the wall of a corridor inside a Pyramid. He sees a figure with dark skin and a long, oval face as proof of his place within the corridors of power, transcending space and time—transcending the tombs of pharaohs and the talismans of the Western Wall—to arrive at the Oval Office.
False displays of modesty follow expressions of immodesty, as Obama pretends to imagine the history of one man within the history of all mankind. The history of his putative ancestor endures not in a monument of stone but evaporates in the mire; for we become like dust and ashes. Faux ruminations complete this set piece.
A Promised Land is nothing but a series of set pieces.
Formulaic in the extreme, Obama peoples his memoir with unflattering descriptions of specific people. Thus do we see Larry Summers’ disheveled appearance and ample belly, and Hosni Mubarak’s broad shoulders and Roman nose, and Nicolas Sarkozy’s Mediterranean features and manic hands, and Bibi Netanyahu’s square jaw and gray comb-over.
All portraits pale beside Obama’s self-portrait.
And yet the longer he beams in the light of his reflection and reflects on his presidency with pride, the blinder he is to reality.
The more he favors himself, the less humble he seems and the more arrogant he looks; the more arrogant he is.