Millennial Generation Hero Interview with Daniel Debowy, M.D., Ph.D.

GM: The question that I was too cowardly to ask at your presentation and the first question everyone I talk to about your presentation asks is: How and where does Barack Obama fit into the millennial generation hero mythology? Or does he?

DD: I think that before I answer that, I should clarify that what our fictional heroes inspire us to do is somewhat separate from real world inspirations. Real living leaders use mythic themes to tap into a zeitgeist, but they can never act completely within the mythic framework. All realities fall short of the fantasy, which is one of those things that even Jung and Freud could agree upon.

“Obama is a bit of a cross-roads figure. He has pop sociologists talking about Generation Jones, which somehow exists between the Baby Boom and Gen X, and seems to consist of everyone born on the same day as Barack Obama. In all seriousness, he manages to unify many Americans from various generations in a way that hasn’t been seen since GenX first started to become politically active in the mid 1980s. He does this partially by fulfilling needs for Oedipal mythos as well as transcending them. He is the fatherless child, who is attempting to succeed in reforming and revitalizing his homeland in a way that his own father failed to do in his. In this sense, it is no coincidence that he has referred jokingly to the Superman myth on more than one occasion, as the emotional resonance of his own life story is the same as the one in the original story of Kal-El (Superman) and his father Jor-El. As an aside, this might be one reason that the pernicious rumor that Obama is not ‘really from here’ persists, because the mythic trope Obama utilizes taps into the flight from someplace foreign (Krypton); intriguingly enough, within the Superman mythos, this same allegation is actually utilized by the hero’s nemesis (Lex Luthor) to rally support against him on several occasions. As a traditional heroic figure, Obama comes forward as the singular righter of wrongs, meant to save us from the brink and to save us from ourselves. In this way, he is much like all other Presidents.

“However, Obama is also the Community Organizer as President. He relies on appeals to the strength of his supporters, even as executive. He presents his point of view, but then announces that it is up to Congress to do the work. Given great power by his predecessor, he deliberately makes public show of the elimination of these powers as part of the repair of the nation. We see evidence of this when he retains some of the Bush era powers, or fails to eliminate them rapidly; many on the Left are upset, but particularly those under the age of 45. Also witness that older liberals are much more likely to be calling for Obama to utilize restrictive measures, such as the full force of the Patriot Act or The Fairness Doctrine, to deal with political opposition. I suspect that many younger supporters of the President would react to such steps as I would, as a betrayal of the emotional core of his presidency, that the President is not the ultimate arbiter of justice. In a way, what Obama attempts to do is harken back to “Jeffersonian” ideals, although even Jefferson retaliated against supporters of Adams in kind and regularly treaded upon Congress once he was in the office.

“In the end, though, Obama cannot BE the Millenial hero, any more than he can have actual super-powers. To briefly emphasize this point, one could also see that young conservatives rallied even more closely to Sarah Palin once she quit as Governor. They saw it as an indictment of the system and her political opponents, rather than irresponsibility. This is because she too tapped into the Millenial heroic journey, stating that she would rather yield power than persist in an office that was bringing Alaska so much negative press. This is not to say that she would quit halfway through a Palin presidency, but the act intimates that she would be a less unitary executive than Bush or Reagan or Nixon, and that this reduced attachment to power has appeal to both left and right. I am not entirely sure that Palin the person can measure up to that heroic ideal, or even that she actually wishes to do so.”
Millennial Generation Hero Interview with Daniel Debowy, M.D., Ph.D., by Ginger Mayerson, J LHLS, August 9, 2009

You see, it only seems like I sit around watching Netflix and eating bon-bons, when in fact I do occasionally interview fascinating people.

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