LI has gotten used to being a no future guy. Yesterday, however, I had one of those magic Obama moments that seem to infuriate those who don’t see anything magical about Obama at all. A friend sent me the upcoming Time cover, which has a great pic of our next prez.
Our next prez. Is that harp music I hear in the background?
It isn’t that the Great Fly’s legacy will vanish as the credits play November 8th. But the very idea of Obama being the U.S. president is so startling, on so many levels – so non-inevitable – that I even had a fleeting sense that the future contained me. Not something I have, well, ever felt about living in these here states.
However, the best post op analysis of what the last five months gave us in terms of a primary is Susan Faludi’s op ed piece today. I like Faludi novelistic sociology – it is in the best tradition of the Chicago Hangin’ out school, plus some symbolic interactionism well hidden from the reader, back in the guts of the mechanism – but I was not convinced by what I read of her post 9/11 thesis. It suffered from an acute lack of knowledge about the South. At the Great Fly’s back are not the captivity stories of Hawthorne’s 17th century New England, but the great dispossession of the Southeast Indian nations of the early nineteenth century. The smokin’ gun of the naughties has been Jacksonian racism, lock stock n barrel. The multiple and multiplying disasters that has brought down on the heads of those who engaged in it are still underappreciated in the Press, that playroom for the post frat Ivy league crowd.
I was surprised, frankly, that Faludi went off track, since her book on White masculinity in the 90s was so beautifully in synch with the time. Reaching back to the themes in that book, Faludi’s piece on why Clinton became a more attractive candidate as she became a shooter and a drinker, as she pandered to the gun totin’ gas guzzler crowd, resonated with my experience – I too, have thought of Clinton as the archetype of the punitive liberal, always looking for that edge where people are experiencing unallowed pleasure – an advocate of censorship from hip hop to computer games, always trying to make us a village – of the damned. And then there was Clinton the evil, the enabler of our run in Iraq. But the Clinton that sprang free and boxed Obama in the primaries was a much better figure all the way around. She had the humility of a great actress – she no longer worried about her ‘position’ or role, but put on personas as needed. The American presidential election, even now, as we watch the governing class transform itself into a kleptocracy, has its customs, one of which is that the candidates must ritually humiliate themselves. For a few decades after WWII, when decorum seized the elite, the process of humiliation was, to a degree, stifled. And of course the Republicans hate that whole humiliation thing – they can dish it out, but they can’t take it. However, the GOP long ago let the genie out of the bottle, and I think that even Republican candidates – as Mitt Romney’s agony showed – are now required to prostrate themselves.
One can go into the process with a pained look on one’s face, like Kerry, or one can lose all inhibitions, like Clinton. Obama supposed ‘elitism’ is all about his refusal to prostrate himself. Obama is right – he is not an actor, like Clinton, and racial codes in this country leave him little choice than to rely on his essential dignity. The thing is, he has essential dignity. He has essential dignity. My God. It is a rare trait. So, if I were Obama, I would stock up on the collected films of Laurence Olivier to figure out how to maximize his own actor’s persona. (although perhaps not this picture) Clinton obviously figured out that Joan Crawford was her l’wa – who knows what will come out of her mouth next? Some confession that she always thought George Wallace was cute? While Obama can’t and shouldn’t go so low, I think he could use Olivier’s sense of balance for the part he is about to play in this campaign against the rapidly decaying McCain.