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'The One'? Take a Number, Sen. Obama

By David Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 31, 2008

Neo: What is happening to me?

Morpheus: You are the One, Neo.

-- "The Matrix"

Wags in John McCain's camp reportedly have taken to referring to Barack Obama as "the One."

It's a sendup of the messianic devotion the Obamanauts sometimes display -- the huge crowds, the tears, the soaring hopes, the rapturous chanting of "O-ba-ma!" and "Yes we can!"

Ha-ha. Next, Obama's going to don a full-length black coat, like Keanu Reeves's Neo in the 1999 film, and start jumping really high in the process of saving mankind.

It's a smart bit of political jujitsu by the McCainiacs. Try to turn an opponent's potential strength into a potential weakness. Have they concluded their guy may become the next president, but he'll never be the One?

There have been so many Ones. The human imagination seems inclined to think in terms of them: King Arthur, Superman, Anakin Skywalker (or Luke, depending on your cosmology), Bobby Kennedy, John Galt, the Who's Tommy, Frodo, Bob Dylan, Siegfried, Harry Potter, Mighty Mouse, Godot, Joe Gibbs, Storm, Wonder Woman.

The One is the one who has the Answer. He will fix a fallen world. He will bring . . . change we can believe in.

The One is usually young, and he speaks inspiringly. A second coming is nice but not always advisable. (See Gibbs, Joe.)

Being the One means passing lots of tests, because at first no one believes in you. King Arthur had to pull Excalibur out of the stone to prove he was the One. Being the One means being tempted by your dark side. Anakin Skywalker succumbed -- the One can be fallible, if not always human -- transmogrified into Darth Vader, and only at the end managed to sort of live up to Obi-Wan's anguished declaration: "You were the chosen one! It was said that you would . . . bring balance to the Force!"

Being the One means conquering doubt about one's powers.

Neo: I'm not the One.

Oracle: Sorry, kid. You got the gift, but it looks like you're waiting for something.

Neo: What?

Oracle: Your next life maybe. Who knows? That's the way these things go.

Perhaps inevitably, being the One means letting down some of your followers. The Who's Tommy -- the "deaf, dumb and blind kid" who "sure plays a mean pinball" -- is idolized and then abandoned by the followers he tries to enlighten.

Obama plays a mean basketball. He has been tested, overcome doubts. If some of his true believers have placed outsize faith in him, he can't be blamed. After all, he slew the two-headed beast called Billary.

Sometimes he seems to playfully encourage his image as the One. Before the New Hampshire primary, he joked to an audience, "I am going to try to be so persuasive in the next 20 minutes or so that a light is going to shine down from the ceiling. . . . You will experience an epiphany. You will say to yourself, 'I have to vote for Barack.' "

He told House Democrats this week, "This is the moment . . . that the world is waiting for," our colleague Dana Milbank reported.

Also this week, the Obama campaign sent out an e-mail in the name of Michelle Obama to invite folks to contribute money for a chance to be among 10 lucky supporters who will get to "go backstage with Barack" at the Democratic convention in Denver, as if he were that special kind of One: the rock star.

But no, he is just a politician. So is John McCain. But one talks more like the One than the other one.

I'm asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington. . . . I'm asking you to believe in yours.

-- Barack Obama

I know that you're afraid. . . . You're afraid of change. I don't know the future. I didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it's going to begin. . . . A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible.

-- Neo

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