the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

What Should President Obama Mean to Me?

When I returned to NY last, I watched the inauguration on CNN. It was so historical! However as I went to sleep, I had conflicting thoughts about the day. I felt pride for the country, but I felt myself rebelling against one of the primary messages that makes Obama such a special president — his Kennedyesque vision of civic and community responsibility. If anything, it took eight years of the Bush administration to finally work its way into my consciousness. By 2009, I am completely ready to throw myself into the world of selfishness and me-first-ism. I want to be more successful, wealthier, and happier, with more sex. Why shouldn’t I be more selfish and self-absorbed? It’s my time. How do I integrate this new administration with my new commitment to selfishness?

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve already started on my road to me-first. I just registered for BlogHer. Good move. I can win more attention for myself and my blog. I bought an iPhone so I can keep up with the cool kids. If I want to date again, I need to make more money. Who wants to date someone poor? The bad economy has made me worry about money and career more than any time in my life. Who has the time or energy to care about the downtrodden?!

I have been inspired by many of your wonderful posts about Obama’s election, so much so that I am authentically worried about writing this kvetchy, neurotic post.

“What is wrong with this guy?” I can hear you saying. “Can’t he just be happy with Obama’s inauguration? Why does our celebration have to be so quickly turned into self-doubt, ruining the mood?”

It’s not that I am not thrilled about this change, but I tend to be introspective and worried about historical events, and my words do not come flowing out. I’m also less of an inspirational speaker than a kvetcher, trying to figure out the “meaning” of the event.

I am in a transition point in my own life, and it is ironic that at the exact time we move from the Bush years to the Obama years, I am thinking about embracing selfishness. Am I taking a wrong turn at the wrong historical moment? I am seriously approaching this new administration in a very personal way. What should I do differently during this new era of American politics?

Having a young, African-American president is terrific for the country, but it doesn’t transform me into a new person. I had no issues with voting for a black man. Maybe “America” did, and the country now shows maturity. But I am a personal blogger, and I am much more interested in talking about “I” and “you” rather than “We” or “America.” The questions that are on my mind are of a personal nature:

How did the eight years of the Bush Administration affect me? How did I benefit from it? How did the culture that grew out of those years make me who I am today? It is bullshit to say that I wasn’t part of this Bush-era culture. We all were. We had no choice. The blogosphere grew up under this culture. All the obsessions of A-listers and B-listers, and monetizing your blog are modeled after the high-rolling laissez faire attitudes of the economic and international policies during the Bush years.

Obama is “inspiring,” but what exactly is he inspiring ME to do? Should I volunteer more? Should I think less about myself and more of others? Does this mean I shouldn’t put up advertising on my blog? Should I donate it to charity? Should I try to date more African-American women? What does an Obama presidency mean to me?

Have you been inspired to make any changes in your life?


  1. Marie

    You may be self-centered (and, really, aren’t most of us, and why not), but selfishness lies in definition.

    Is it selfish to earn money by providing something that someone else values? Is it selfish to buy a cup of coffee, even at Starbucks?

    Those are transactions that benefit both parties involved.

    Making prudent decisions about one’s well being while not harming others is not selfishness in a bad way.

    Yes, it is a wonderful thing to do good for others without reward. But, just as one puts on the oxygen mask first before assisting others, if we are not able to take care of ourselves, we will be of little use anyone else.

    Wild spending with no thought to tomorrow using other people’s money is true selfishness. Using violence or fraud to obtain money is wrong.

    (We are presuming you acquired the iPhone in a fair exchange, not an armed robbery.)

  2. Neil

    Well, actually, I did look if I could download some apps illegally, but darn Apple makes you get everything through iTunes! So, I am NOT perfect.

  3. TRO

    Yep, I went out and bought a few more guns, lots more ammunition and a ton of bottle water and canned goods.

    On a slightly more serious note – volunteerism is wonderful and Americans are the best at it in the world. We individually give more money to charity than any other people and when there is an international disaster it is not the UN that saves the day, but mostly America and Americans.

    It’s only when volunteering becomes mandatory that Americans balk at the word. I gladly volunteered to serve my country in the Armed Forces and I will keep giving money to charity, helping out with my church and the Scouts and band boosters and anything I can do in my community, but I will be damned if I will be forced by this Administration or any other to serve whatever greater good it defines.

    And frankly I think most Americans – liberal and conservative – feel the same way.

    Oh and as to making money. That is as patriotic as you can get. Private enterprise drives our economy. If you want to lower the national debt and create jobs then the best way – the proven way – is to lower taxes so people can invest in and expand businesses and hire people who pay taxes which then flood the coffers of the treasury. It’s a proven fact.

    So, Neil, advertise away. Date as many women as you can and buy as many dinners and roses as you can and get laid as often as you can using as many rubbers as you can buy.

    It’s good for you and good for America.

  4. Chantel

    I think you should date more black women.

  5. Neil

    TRO — Wel, if I act exactly the same as I did yesterday, what is the point of the inspiration?

  6. mommyknows

    I agree with the commenter above and the oxygen mask metaphor, however, I do a fair amount of volunteering and service, and not only does it help others, but in the end YOU will feel better. In reality, it’s probably why I keep doing it. Just being honest.

    I am sure it will do the same for you. In addition, women may think you’re all sensitive and caring and it just might help you get laid. Just saying.

  7. Nancy

    Well I did change my undies, and probably will again tomorrow.

    But seriously, I hopped on the wave of Obama’s inspiration for change last year. Indeed, it has given me hope for the next generation. What will I change? I started with my attitude. With a better one, nothing is going to be as hard to tackle.

  8. TRO

    “TRO รขโ‚ฌโ€ Well, if I act exactly the same as I did yesterday, what is the point of the inspiration?”

    Exactly. Inspiration mostly comes from within (and from God). If you are waiting on Barry to give it to you, you are going to have a long wait.

    Besides, isn’t the actually getting laid part different?

    Just teasing, bud, you know I love you more than my luggage.

  9. sassy

    Sooooo, you bought an iphone to ‘keep up with the cool kids’… Guess I won’t be hearing much from you? (;

  10. kenju

    You are just a day late and a dollar short. Yes, you should volunteer, and give to charity and think more about others than yourself! Otherwise, you might end up like that guy who went back to TX yesterday; despised and considered useless.

  11. TRO

    “Yes, you should volunteer, and give to charity and think more about others than yourself!”

    One hopes this is a joke because if one did some research one would learn that Bush gave more to charity than the Clintons, Gores, and Obama’s combined.

    Also, there are plenty of people – half the country I would guess – that don’t despise Bush. I am one of them despite my differences with him on several issues.

  12. Amy Nathan

    I think you should date single Jewish moms with blogs. I’m just sayin’. Think of the unity it could bring to Illinois and New York. Truly.

    Last night I was thinking that I am too selfish. Giving as all hell to my kids and my friends and family – but I’ve never been one to go all out for the greater good. I have always felt my responsibility was to raise two kids into adults who are amazing citizens. I’m doing it alone. It’s exhausting. But part of my responsibility is to show and not just tell…so I volunteer, do pro bono work and now I recycle with vigor (which counts as a workout).

  13. Kanani

    I’m sorry, I really didn’t have time to read all of your rant. I’m really into me, you see, and decided to fix my hair.

  14. Neil

    Wow, a Jewish single Mom blogger… WHO RECYCLES too!

  15. carma

    I love your unique take on things. Now I will sit back and wait for an email from you since I have posted a comment ๐Ÿ™‚ I’d better get comfortable and put my feet up!

  16. MammaLoves

    Don’t be fooled Neil. This me-first attitude is just an anxiety condition brought on by the sight of Bush and Cheney leaving the White House. It’s actually part of a much bigger plan they had hoped to launch earlier–in time for the elections–but its implementation was delayed due to the shock of McCain’s nomination of Palin. It was powder released throughout the cabin on your flight to LA. They wanted all the weird CA lefties to think of themselves first and vote for McCain.

    So once again, I say, thank god for Sarah Palin.

  17. sizzle

    If you’re talking about selfishness in the sense that you will focus on YOU and your own happiness, then I am all for that. I support you 100%.

  18. Annie

    What Sizzle said. Taking care of yourself is not selfish.

  19. Danny

    Are you really going to BlogHer? Is that in Chicago? Have you been there before? Remind me to give you some tips before you go (about Chicago, not about being at a conference with 97 percent women–although I have experience with that, too, having gone to many teacher conferences–beware when you go to the men’s room, they will have taken that over).

    Mazel tov on the iPhone. I’m jealous, I covet that thing!

  20. Jane

    Well, first let me say thank you for making me your blog crush for eight hours. It’s my first one-night stand of the year, and I didn’t have to take my socks off, or worry what I was going to feed you for breakfast in the morning.

    Secondly, Obama’s general sexiness and the genuine love he seems to feel for his wife will, I’m sure, usher in a new era of amorous affection. There’s going to be a demand for good-looking, successful, ambitious but sensitive men who aren’t bashful about PDA’s. Which means you’re totally in, Neil — you’re IN.

    I only hope your erections last longer than your blog love for me.

  21. Rhea

    The Day of Service was great. It got me to decide to volunteer more.

  22. Neil

    Jane — I guess my 8hr blog crush of the day is more Clinton era than Obama era.

  23. Gramps

    Remember, though, that even Kennedy was all about more sex.

  24. Miguelina

    Woot! I’m your blog crush…and it’s not even on a penis post!

  25. kimberlee

    I’m inspired to stay in France. I wasted all my best politically-aware years indignant and working to oust the right, right wrongs and generally bust my butt for what? oh yeah, now some hopeful upstart is in charge (yes I voted for him) and I’m passing the patriotism torch to my offspring to carry on the good work. I’m volunteering for a slower life, focused on the moments … and none of them involve some ephemeral obligation to improve the plight of the good ole US of A. She got herself into this mess and she’ll have to work hard to get herself out. She certainly wasn’t around when I needed her … and that isn’t likely to change soon. Let the corporations pay their dues for a change, I’m worn out.

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