Monday, April 14, 2008

What is the Measure of a Man?

William Kristol's latest article for the New York Times compares Barack Obama to Karl Marx, in a backhanded kind of way, dealing with some comments that Obama made last week.
. . . it’s one thing for a German thinker to assert that “religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature.” It’s another thing for an American presidential candidate to claim that we “cling to ... religion” out of economic frustration.

And it’s a particularly odd claim for Barack Obama to make. After all, in his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, he emphasized with pride that blue-state Americans, too, “worship an awesome God.”

. . . What does this mean for Obama’s presidential prospects? He’s disdainful of small-town America — one might say, of bourgeois America. He’s usually good at disguising this. But in San Francisco the mask slipped.
I don't know the full specifics surrounding Obama's poorly chosen words. I do know that if you poll Americans on issues, taking out the politicians and parties, "liberal" positions tend to do well. And yet many people have a very negative opinion of liberalism.

I am interested in the idea that this offhand comment of Obama's is somehow more revelatory than all of his other comments. The assumption in politics is that anything noble or admirable about a politician can be ascribed to stage dressing; they want to look admirable. Whenever we see anything base or mean about a politician that's their real self. Thus Obama's unfortunate comments are the real him; his comments on believing in an Awesome God are fake.

Do we have that tendency in other people we come in contact with? Or with ourselves? Is the real me the one that trips over Lupita (my dog) and then yells at her? Or the one that plays with her and her pink stretchy thing?

There's something called charity which allows you to believe that your friends at their best are the real them. Perhaps it wouldn't be a bad thing if we had some charity for our politicians as well.

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