Monday, September 07, 2009

Billy Graham, Meet Ashton Kutcher

I started out thinking that the Demi-Moore directed video, “I Pledge,” was part of a presidential push to recruit America’s public school children into Obamajugend.

The first appearance of this video in a Utah schoolhouse only days before Obama’s presidential address to America’s Youth, and at the very moment when Department of Education-created lesson plans about how students can help the president were hotlined to prinicipals, seemed like just too much of a coincidence.

And it still seems reasonable to me that fertile brains in Obama’s support staff opportunistically deployed the video at this time as part of Obama’s initiative to get America’s kids on his side.

But the video wasn’t created at the administration’s direction. It was originally produced by Ashton and Demi as their inaugural gift for Obama, a declaration of their intention to help the One transform reality.
During the presidential inauguration, actors/human/animal right activists Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore stepped up with a staggering group of other well-known [sic] entertainment A-listers and went on the record for very personal “I Pledge” declarations on how they’ll make the world better in 2009 and beyond. The video, directed by Moore was presented to President Obama during the festivities. One outspoken pledge was by Moore who stated that she and Kutcher were determined to help free 1,000,000 people currently in slavery, within five years.
A less outspoken Jason Bateman didn’t go that far, pledging only that he would limit his toilet-flushing strictly to when he poops. Mainly, the staggering group of A-listers take turns flexing their self-esteem and telling the camera what they pledge: to smile more, to get to know their neighbors, to stop buying bottled water, to buy a hybrid. One guy who’d never heard of Medicare pledged to fight for health care for seniors.

But it’s not the individual pledges that matter. What matters is when Ashton and Demi pledge themselves to be a “servant to our president, and to all mankind.”

Depending on the broadness of your theology, that may be a distinction without a difference.

For an audience of grade-school kids, the overall commercial message of this video is, “we’re really cool, and you can be cool too by pledging to Obama.” And it’s a lot easier to join a club that doesn’t demand too much, a selling-point common to all liberal religions. (“Our only creed is, Just be yourself--only more smug!”). The variety and banality of these A-lister pledges won’t freak some kid out that he’s being asked to pledge celibacy or to serve his country in uniform. “Pledge allegiance to the funk? Yes I can!”

Not that I demean Ashton’s and Demi’s horror at white slavery--(the totally unPC name by which it was once known) as banal. The sex trade is real, and awful. George W. Bush was condemning it, the first U.S. president to do so, as a “humanitarian crisis” and a “special evil”, and all without benefit of Hollywood support. (As far back as 2006, Bush opponent Nicholas Kristof wrote that on this “crucial issue, Mr. Bush is leaving a legacy that he and America can be proud of.”).

But “I Pledge” isn’t really a rallying cry against white slavery--that’s just Ashton’s and Demi’s thing. The video is an invitation to youngsters, who are impressionable when their instincts for idealism and service are just beginning to awaken, to lend those unformed instincts to the service of a particular person, namely one President Barack Hussein Obama. Had an NFL player at a Bible camp given a similar message, it would end with an invitation to give your heart to Jesus.

Most Obama supporters detest that sort of evangelism, but, in fairness, at least Jesus has two-millenium of witnesses testifying that He is God, a good portion of them martyrs and saints. The testimony for Obama’s godhood goes back barely two years, and includes Oprah Winfrey and Chris Matthews.

Maybe critics of Obama’s decision to speak to public school kids, and have pupils inscripturate his wiser sayings, shouldn’t be complaining that it’s an attempt to indoctrinate children. Maybe they should be complaining that it’s an attempt to establish a religion.

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