Simon Hoggart on Obama’s acceptance speech:
Here is a man, you feel, who is already looking back on his own life as a central moment in the American narrative. In a sense, he hovers over himself, watching and hearing his own performance, as if being elected President was the supreme out-of-body experience.
I think this attitude, conscious of being a crucial part of a larger history, could lead to wise decision making that eschews the partisan for the conciliatory, and the short-term for the long-term.
Reading the second-day coverage of this election, one can clearly see how history conscious the media are too. They have been aware for weeks that this moment would be transformational, and have had time to prepare their most eloquent, flowing, go-down-in-history prose. Sadky, very little of it will ever be read again – instead, it will merely be rewritten my new hands, as future pundits with the benefit of hindsight file reminisces of a pivotal moment. Only Obama’s acceptance speech will endure (and even this may be superseded by his Inaugural address next January). I half wish that the papers reverted to their dense, colourless reportage, and let us conjour whatever historical significance we wish in our own minds.
Is there a difference between living the history, and merely watching it unfold? I think so, and for those of use observing the moment overseas, I think the detachment was particularly acute. We are delighted and relieved at the news… and yet we were unable to participate. The celebrations in Grant Park, Chicago were genuine, but we were elsewhere, and so we had to watch them on a flat screen. That most important of sounds, the noise of the thousands cheering, was dialled down by the sound editor, so we could properly hear Obama’s words. It is historical, yes, but by the time we come to experience it, it has already been tampered with.