Obama’s Aesthetic of Cool

barack obama

On stage a young black man, the president of the United States, warmly embraced an older white woman in front of god and all the world. It is now an iconic photograph. If it had occurred on a weed-choked street in Mississippi within the lifetime of many of the people who were cheering the moment, the young man might have been beaten, burned, hung, thrown into a river with a cotton fan tied to his neck. A song began to rise through the history of the moment:

Southern trees bear a strange fruit/Blood on the leaves and blood at the root/Black bodies swingin’ in the Southern breeze/Strange fruit hangin’ from the poplar trees…

But it was not those days any longer. The young man was the President of the United States and he has rung his changes on that song, and on an occasionally baffled democracy.

– Charles Pierce, writing in Esquire, on President Obama’s Democratic National Convention Speech and uniquely American brand of “cool.”

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