Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Miscellaneous Notes #1 (On Obama and more)

Bland functionality. I long preferred individuality, expressiveness, but sometimes a bland functionality can be clearer, less conflicting, restful, of use. Eliminating the subjective element, emphasizing form, emphasizing manners, had been a standard for interacting with the public for many years: the polite manner, professional manner. Now, a more direct style style--sometimes friendlier and warmer; sometimes brusque--is preferred, with the assumption of efficiency and equality. That new transparency can make strange and rejectionable not only deviant and deficient behavior but also the distinquished, the exceptional, the unusual.

Expensive Trash. I saw this past summer the movies Iron Man, Hancock, and The Dark Knight; and I enjoyed each to varying extents; and almost as soon as I walked out the doors of the theater, I forgot the movies. So much money is invested in, and received from, these movies: more people see them than see serious dramas or satires, than see independent or foreign or otherwise intelligent films...What is the effect of having a film culture that says so little about life in a large, diverse nation?

Senator Barack Obama, a member of Congress from the state of Illinois, the Democratic party presidential nominee and possible future president of the United States, is a distinquished and unique man. He is distinquished by his personality and his intellect and by his experience--educated in Indonesia and Hawaii, at Columbia University and Harvard, where he was editor of Harvard's Law Review; a lecturer on constitutional law at a great university, the University of Chicago; and Illinois state senator and a published and bestselling author. He has advocated for new jobs and job training, health care, environmental protections, dialogue between nations, and more; progressive and sane positions. He has been a superb candidate for public office and yet at different times in his campaign for president he has been forced to define and defend himself anew, as if we know nothing about him. He is described perpetually as the post-racial candidate but the renewal of distrust and doubt surrounding him makes it plain he is being seen and treated like a "black" man (by whites, blacks, and others). A few nights ago, I heard a late night black talk show in which one of the hosts said Barack has to simplify and toughen his message--that his problem is that he's been too intellectual, too nuanced, trying to show "white" people how smart he is. I object to that assumption and diagnosis (which I find anti-intellectual, racist, and sexist). Why can't Barack Obama be understood to both enjoy his own intellect and to find it absolutely fundamental to his campaign, essential for providing a new orientation--a new maturity, a new rigor--for American politics? Barack Obama has offered arguments, facts, ideas, even humor in his defense--and all of that is enough, and then, all of that is not enough: he achieves a victory and it is interpreted as a curious defeat. He is contending with myths.