Monday, April 07, 2008

THE FUTURE AND ITS ENEMIES. Even conservative operatives get tried, apparently, and so they have started handing off their anti-Obama scripts to libertarians. Virginia Postrel has Rev. Wright, Rezko, John F. Kennedy -- the works. The spiel rolls so smoothly off her tongue that (like that other famous libertarian, Penn Jillette) she pauses in the middle of the act to explain how her trick is done:
Where optimists fill in mystery with their hopes, however, pessimists project their fears. The flip side of glamour is horror: the vampire, the con man, the femme fatale, the double agent. These glamorous archetypes remind us of how easy it is to succumb to desire and manipulation. What, ask his opponents, is Obama hiding?
And now for the wow finish! Her wrapup on "the flip side of glamour" is an intriguing novelty:
Obama must have an inkling of these perils. He knows glamour better than most people, having grown up enchanted with the glamorized image of his distant father, an image shaped by his mother’s stories and his own yearnings. “The brilliant scholar, the generous friend, the upstanding leader—my father had been all those things. All those things and more, because except for that one brief visit in Hawaii, he had never been present to foil the image,” he writes in Dreams from My Father...

That image was false. Despite his early promise, Obama’s father died a bitter, lonely minor bureaucrat, leaving a fractured family to fight over his tiny estate. “All my life,” concluded the young Obama when he learned the truth, “I had been wrestling with nothing more than a ghost!” By then, however, the glamour had done its work, providing meaning and purpose to the son’s formative years. At the risk of bitter disillusionment, perhaps Obama hopes to do for the country what his father’s image did for him: provide a noble lie that tricks us into self-improvement.
I guess she thinks Obama's act is similar to her own, but even more diabolical: Obama has, like a Shakespearean villain, laid out in monologue the grudge that motivates his nefarious plot. Beware the ides of self-improvement! For it might not work, and then we'll all be mad at him.

It's a strangely defeatist POV for a self-proclaimed Dynamist, but improvisation will only get you so far when you're working with such crappy material.

UPDATE. I had forgotten about this bit from an interview Postrel did when she was publicizing her book The Substance of Style:
Take, for example, Kente cloth. Some people would say that it's inauthentic for white people to wear Kente cloth. But by that logic it's actually, in some sense, inauthentic for anyone in the United States to wear it, and even for anyone in Africa to wear it who's not from the aristocracy. Traditionally it had a very specific use. But it's evolved over time. It's beautiful; African-Americans see it as reflecting their ties to their ancestors in Africa, and to their sense of identity—even if no one in their family would ever in a million years have been allowed to wear this cloth. It's taken on another meaning, and that meaning, I would argue, is just as authentic. It's come out of a different experience, and it reflects the authentic pleasure and meaning of the people who wear it.
But now Postrel is concerned with the inauthenticity of Obama's childhood admiration for his father. Can't the experience have just "evolved over time" for him, and "taken on another meaning"? Also, for a preview of Postrel's inevitable Clinton hit piece, see the part where she doubts Hillary really liked doing her hair.

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