May 9, 2008

PEDDLE GNOSTICISM SOMEWHERE ELSE:

Sticking Points for Obama (Michael Gerson, 5/09/08, Real Clear Politics)

The Obama narrative is intellectual and ideological (not social) elitism. Humble roots have never been a guarantee of intellectual humility, especially when a mind comes to flower at Columbia and Harvard. Obama's dismissal of small town views and values as "bitterness," "fear" and "anger" -- his dismissal of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright as the relic of an angry generation -- come across as, well, dismissive. His first instinct -- the academic instinct -- is to explain and analyze, which is impressive to political writers who share that particular vocation. But this approach always places the explainer in a position of superiority. The arrogance of the aristocrat is nothing compared to the arrogance of the academic.

The issue of the lapel flag pin is a good illustration. Obama's explanation for its absence -- that it had become a "substitute" for "true patriotism" in the aftermath of 9/11 -- is perfectly rational. For a professor at the University of Chicago. Members of the knowledge class generally find his stand against sartorial symbolism to be subtle, even courageous. Most Americans, I'm willing to bet, will find it incomprehensible after 20 additional explanations, which are bound to be required. A president is expected to be a patriotic symbol himself, not the arbiter of patriotic symbols. He is supposed to be the face-painted superfan at every home game; to wear red, white and blue boxers on special marital occasions; to get misty-eyed during the most obscure patriotic hymns.

The problem here is not that Obama is unpatriotic -- a foolish, unfair, destructive charge -- but that Obama has declared himself superior to an almost universal form of popular patriotism.


One of the things that makes James Joyce such an awful author is his willful obscurity, the conceit that people should spend their entire lives studying him in order to understand a couple crappy novels rather than he express whatever his point was with any clarity or write in an accessible, enjoyable manner.

Mr. Obama, like many Brights, imagines himself to have unique depths that likewise warrant our exploration. He is another of those candidates of nuance.

Fortunately, America is Stupid. We don't do nuance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 9, 2008 12:47 PM
Comments

An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!

Posted by: Mikey at May 9, 2008 1:37 PM

This issue has always been reported obliquely. I don't care if he never wore it and continues not to wear it. What bothers me greatly and would likely bother others as well if they knew it, is that he took it off after 9/11.

"Last October, a reporter asked Barack Obama why he had stopped wearing the American flag lapel pin that he, like many other public officials, had been sporting since soon after Sept. 11. Obama could have responded that his new-found fashion minimalism was no big deal. What matters, obviously, is what you believe and do, not what you wear.

But Obama chose to present his flag-pin removal as a principled gesture. “You know, the truth is that right after 9/11, I had a pin. Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security, I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest.”"

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/25/opinion/25kristol.html?pagewanted=print

Posted by: Rick T. at May 9, 2008 3:17 PM

"One of the things that makes James Joyce such an awful author is his willful obscurity, the conceit that people should spend their entire lives studying him in order to understand a couple crappy novels rather than he express whatever his point was with any clarity or write in an accessible, enjoyable manner."

This is gorgeous.

Posted by: Tom at May 10, 2008 10:37 AM
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