Barack Obama’s oratory skills are legendary. His campaign’s decision to backdrop the most important political speech of the campaign with an ancient Greek temple is astonishingly poor judgment. It is already being referred to as the “Temple of Obama.”
Adding to our new friend Ignatius Reilly’s article, the pomp of a Greek temple is so politically bad on so many levels that it is unclear where to begin. The illusion that the Obama campaign is trying to give is subtle but we can explain because otherwise nobody will get it. They are trying to invoke an image of the historical Greek Agora, in which all the citizens came together to vote on important civic matters.
Never mind that hoplites and slaves did not have the right to vote, and that the Greek form of direct democracy put Socrates to death. In an unintentional final slap to Hillary Clinton supporters, a few historians will note that the right of women to vote was stripped during the Athenian Empire. But let’s save those lessons for a history class. The real problems with Obama’s Greek stage are more obvious.
Obama’s opponents have been largely successful lately in painting him in broad brushes as an aloof rock star. Now we have a Greek temple of Obama in Denver to add to the unfortunate aura. We will see a large crowd, strobe lights, a stage, and a strange prop that Britney Spears might have ordered herself.
The spectacle of a passionate speaker on such a set has some people uncomfortable, especially in the Jewish community, as it apparently reminds people of the demagoguery that occurred in the 1930’s. That view is unfair but it is nevertheless a real political problem. And of course there is the inevitable Star Trek reference.
But the biggest problem is the further characterization by critics of Barack Obama as some kind of messiah, gifted to earth by Everyman’s god in order to save our planet. Strangely the Obama campaign seems to cultivate the image, while the critics eagerly blast him for it. Obama’s opponents have the upper hand on this score, so the Obama convention speech will be a laughing stock to some viewers due to imagery that may not be easily forgotten.
In ancient Greece, of course, temples were all over the place. A Greek temple was the earthly home of a pagan god, such as Zeus, Hera, or Aphrodite. Animal sacrifices were routinely done on the alter (before PETA), and even some human sacrifices were made. A statue of the god sat or stood in the temple, but presumably never roamed the temple giving a political speech.
That is the big problem with Obama’s Greek temple stage. His critics will say he is filling the role of a god, opening himself up to a further pounding as a messiah on earth.
What is the Obama campaign thinking?