Multiple times in the last week, the word “elegant” has come up in relation to Barack Obama. Some quote from 2009 had the speaker gushing over Obama’s elegance. Obama himself wishes that there was an elegant, academic option to impose universal health insurance on the American public.
To what end? What does elegance do for us when it comes to governing?
And why is the elite concerned more with elegance than effectiveness.
The author confesses to being a lover of aesthetics and beauty, and to an extent a connoisseur of elegance. Elegance is a balance between plain and opulent with a timeless appeal. Very much like…the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis or the Blue Room in the White House; the sight of 84 ten foot concert grand pianos being lifted into place at the Los Angeles Colesseum at the Opening Ceremonies of the 1984 Olympics with 84 pianists IN UNISON playing George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and very much like the gait of Hickory, the Scottish Deerhound who took home Best in Show at the 2011 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Simple beauty with a timeless appeal.
Which begs the question, what exactly is elegant about Barack Obama, and why should it matter?
Beginning with what is elegant about the man…what IS elegant about him? It certainly isn’t courtly manners or his golfing technique. His speaking cadence is dependent on a teleprompter, and even then it’s not fluid by any means. Elegant thinking…yeah, Obama’s thinking, if one can call it that, is more along the lines of “how can I get away with doing the least amount of work.” By all accounts he’s dependant on everyone around him to make any sort of decisions, and nothing is streamlined and effortless as anything elegant should be. He drinks beer, not Cognac. Class – good Lord, he married Michelle. That answers that question.
Plain and simply, by those measures, Obama isn’t elegant.
In that case, Obama’s alleged elegance must be his appearance in a suit, not too much different than Kathleen Sebelius’. (Any frequent readers of this blogger in the last couple weeks know that I noticed.) Long and lean, or is “slim” a better word, with sloping shoulders, properly fitted clothing and colors to complement both other parts of the outfit and the wearer. To quote Ms. Sebelius, whatever. Frankly, what one should truly notice about a man past the eyes are his hands – and while Obama’s may have long fingers with an ill-fitting gold ring on his left ring finger, they are most likely soft, not having been sullied by any sort of work to put calluses…but that is projecting. (To be honest, his fingers are kind of stubby.) The man is elegant, doncha know: no broad shoulders or bulky muscles from physical labor or shadows under his eyes from burning the late night oil studying.
And this matters because….
Because the people who claim Obama is elegant, a rarity for a man, have fallen into the trap of valuing style over substance, a decidedly American trait in one of the more ironic twists of current American politics as the elite are hell-bent on emulating Europe’s errors. Obama’s admirers didn’t look beyond the surface. This is the sort of reasoning that made the PT Cruiser a best seller among American cars. Not that the elite actually drive American cars. Obama says what they want to hear, and they don’t look under the surface.
Elegance in a man is fine for a character in a Jane Austen novel, although the elegant gentlemen are usually the villains who use the protagonists or their sisters and end up married to another woman for someone else’s money. Not a great trait for a president of the United States, though.
Most Americans don’t really have much use for elegance. We’re more the rough and tumble sorts who innovate our way out of problems and solve those same problems in real time. It doesn’t have to be elegant. Just effective. And that is where the “elegance” of Obama fails in the American context. There is no way for it to be effective in problem solving. Problem solving is messy, and requires the input of entirely too many people who have differing philosophies. There is no synergy, no compliance.
No easily dealt with elegance in that case. Just messy, sloppy, hard to control human condition.
It’s the one thing an elegant elitist cannot abide.
Tough. This is the United States, not Europe.
Just for the American pride thrill, relive the Gershwin moment from the Opening Ceremonies of the 1984 Olympics. The blue tuxes were a little much, but elegance, oh yeah.