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WOID XVIII-38. Moonbats for Obama

crosslinked with WOID: a journal of visual language

In the waning weeks of the German Occupation, Jean-Paul Sartre was approached after a performance of his play No Exit. The man explained to Sartre that the Gestapo was looking for him and that Sartre should meet him the next day in front of Saint-Germain-des-Prés at a quarter to noon, because at noon the next day the clock would strike and angels would appear and Peace would descend on Earth. Sartre, who was curious about people and their experiences, walked over to Saint-Germain the next day, where the man was waiting for him. At noon the clock struck, and nothing happened. "I must have made a mistake," the man said, and shrugged, and walked away.

I expect to feel the same in November when I walk over to my polling place. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of people telling me that if I vote for X the heavens will open up, and I’m pretty dubious about that, but I’m going anyhow. There will be many, too, who tell me what’s the use, but anyhow, I’m going. Sartre would have reminded himself of Pascal’s Bet, the great French mathematician’s argument that, yes, the chances of the heavens opening up are a zillion in one, but when you consider the amount of the wager (a short walk to the church or polling place and voilà! No more Gestapo!), it’s worth a try.

Sartre must have been delighted by the man’s attitude, an act of pure engagement at odds with those calculations of motive so common in periods of trouble, which usually backfire. My friend Zane’s planning to vote for Obama because he’s sure Obama’s only saying he doesn’t support gay marriage because he has to say so to get elected, which is basically saying that Zane prefers Obama to Clinton because Obama’s the greater liar and that strikes me as a valid reason: Obama lies because he has to, Clinton doesn’t lie (relatively speaking), because she thinks she doesn’t need to, which means Obama’s playing the dangerous game of empowering voters who may eventually feel empowered to call him on the promises he made in their dreams. Maybe he doesn’t really mean it when he says he doesn’t rule out nuclear energy, and maybe he really means it when he doesn’t go haywire and order all the kids to take down their Che Guevara posters because some aging Cuban with more rings on his aorta than his pinky got upset when someone put up a Che poster in the Obama campaign office somewhere.

You can see it in their speaking styles: Clinton doesn’t simply want the job, she wants to be the incarnation of power for her audience, as though their will would become hers. She’s a proscenium stage kind of politician, she stands at the center, in the spotlight, projecting Herself. Obama’s got more of a cabaret style, he’s the performer who wants to please his audience, but like them he’s an outsider, it’s his job, and he’s not really a black guy, just a guy who happens to be black. Watch the way he walks around the stage, bends over to listen and moves the mike from hand to hand: the Sammy Davis, Jr. of politics.

Now some would say, since voting is better than not voting in a Pascalian way, why not vote for, say, the People’s Workers Party, whose chances are not even one in a zillion? Sartre would have answered that he hadn’t turned up at Saint-Germain-des-Prés to see miracles happen but in solidarity with the man, and with his hopes. Just as Sartre had more in common with his philosopher friends than some crazy guy off the street, so, too, I may have more goals in common with the People’s Workers Party; but we’re not talking about shared goals, we’re talking about shared expectations. A few years after this, when André Gide complained that he didn’t vote because it put him on the same level as the cleaning lady, Sartre’s old friend Merleau-Ponty told him that, precisely, was why a man should vote: because it puts us all on the same level of credulity.

Who knows? It’s time to roll the dice. And after all, when the clock struck twelve at Saint-Germain-des-Prés did the man look up and curse the heavens? Did he complain that he was never going to stand in front of Saint-Germain again, or that God was a liar? Only moonbats do that. Instead he shrugged, and thought, "I was wrong this time, but at least I have hope still, and that’s the thing that matters." Il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux.

- Trotsky the Horse

Originally posted to Trotsky the Horse on Thu Feb 14, 2008 at 03:10 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  lovely. tip jar? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cas2, FischFry, Timothy Scriven

    Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard. -=-H. L. Mencken

    by crazyshirley2100 on Thu Feb 14, 2008 at 03:10:34 PM PST

    •  Aw, shucks... (11+ / 0-)

      Forthcoming from the Orange Press: "Planet Marx."

      by Trotsky the Horse on Thu Feb 14, 2008 at 03:14:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  it be nice to gallop... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        maybe we will canter w/ Obama for a season or a half

        but the main game is how many will trot

        for a lifetime even when hope departs for a season

        Human beings suffer,
        they torture one another,
        they get hurt and get hard.
        No poem or play or song
        can fully right a wrong
        inflicted or endured.

        The innocent in gaols
        beat on their bars together.
        A hunger-striker's father
        stands in the graveyard dumb.
        The police widow in veils
        faints at the funeral home.

        History says, Don't hope
        on this side of the grave.
        But then, once in a lifetime
        the longed for tidal wave
        of justice can rise up,
        and hope and history rhyme.

        So hope for a great sea-change
        on the far side of revenge.
        Believe that a further shore
        is reachable from here.
        Believe in miracles
        and cures and healing wells.

        Call the miracle self-healing:
        The utter self-revealing
        double-take of feeling.
        If there's fire on the mountain
        Or lightning and storm
        And a god speaks from the sky

        That means someone is hearing
        the outcry and the birth-cry
        of new life at its term.

        ~ Seamus Heaney ~

        The Cure at Troy:
        A Version of Sophocles’ Philoctetes

        Tax Paradigms, Feed Imaginations

        by jhpdb on Thu Feb 14, 2008 at 03:52:55 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I disagree with everything you write (0+ / 0-)

        But I can't resist tipping you. The pun in your name is just too good.

        Arrrgghhh... defeated again.

        Damn you Trotsky the Horse, damn you.

  •  Trosky (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    trashablanca, Timothy Scriven

    the horses ass.

    Blind faith in bad leaders is not patriotism - Rocky Anderson

    by librarianman on Thu Feb 14, 2008 at 03:13:16 PM PST

  •  I don't know what to say about this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:


    "Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come." Victor Hugo

    by lordcopper on Thu Feb 14, 2008 at 03:16:33 PM PST

  •  moonbats (4+ / 0-)

    ah yes, very engaging.

    The main reason Obama makes sense now is the 7 years of catastrophe of Bushco. Obama is his heir, is the tonic that detoxifies the people's psyche from Bush's vindictive stupidity.

    So if Obama is really just a stuntman, Bush and his supporters made it all possible. Thanks!

    All extremists are irrational and should be exposed

    by SeanF on Thu Feb 14, 2008 at 03:17:27 PM PST

  •  Were you laughing like Beevis & Butthead (4+ / 0-)

    while you were typing this?  That's the way it reads to me.  I gotta tip for you trottsky, get yourself some kaopectate and don't quit your day job.

    "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." John Lennon

    by trashablanca on Thu Feb 14, 2008 at 03:28:04 PM PST

  •  I doubt you'll get much love... (14+ / 0-)

    ...for this Diary, not surprisingly since most Obama backers - even when they're chanting "Yes, we can!" don't believe as Sartre's informant did that what we'll be seeing is the arrival of the Messiah.

    We've all got questions about Obama, and many of us have strong critiques of pieces of his vision of hope. Can he - pushed, nudged, shoved by the grassroots - transform that vision into something real? Well, we will see. He already is a break from the past. Not all of it, of course. He's no revolutionary. But, the transformation won't come about by looking up for angels to appear on the morning of November 5, but rather by means of the same hard work that progressives have always had to engage in. Obama can at worst open the window for us, give us the opening to stop fighting rearguard actions against the right-wing and again begin moving in the direction that was originally opened by someone else the naysayers 75 years ago claimed would do nothing important: FDR.

    The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppose. - Frederick Douglass

    by Meteor Blades on Thu Feb 14, 2008 at 03:30:38 PM PST

  •  I see this election (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SeanF, trashablanca, StrayCat, FischFry

    as a choice between voting for (a) more of the same, or (b) maybe more of the same, but possibly, just possibly, something better.

    I know I don't want more of the same, so I'm going with (b).

  •  Cynicism is a good thing when dealing with drug (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TKinVT, jhpdb

    dealers, politicians, marketing people, consultants. Cynicism is not a good thing when dealing with citizenship, love, kindness, sex, art, one's family. The problem becomes one of not knowing where and when. To someone with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

    The further part of the problem is that cynicism is habit-forming, as well I know it in my own experience. It's almost too easy to defend yourself from everything, particularly in the Age of Cool, because then nothing happening looks like a winning outcome. But after a while, you/I begin to realize that nothing's happening altogether. What looked like success begins to look and feel like failure.

    This is the situation that we find ourselves in today in politics, and in other venues. Both Clinton and McCain represent more cynicism. Obama does not, which, I must admit, is a little frightening. He is raising the bar on himself, which means he has further to fall if falling is what he does when elected. I could defend myself by saying, 'whatever.' But I feel that is insufficient because, as I said earlier, there are times when cynicism just doesn't work, because you/I will get the same result we got before. No revolution was ever based on cynicism.

    What's different about Obama isn't in policies or issues, or even in oratorical skills. What's different is that he says he can't do it, but we can. He is actually asking us to become citizens, to become the country we would want to be if we dared.

    The other politicians, of course, are doing the me-thing, as in 'elect me and I will do this or that for you.' We would remain spectators, watching the reigning spectacle. Obama on the other hand is saying that we have a part to play in our own lives: a radical statement considering he's saying it to a generation of TV watchers, people unused to living their lives as members of a cohesive, active group with communal wisdom rather than as participants in a game show where everyone is trying to be a winner against a background of contestants and in front of an audience, even if an audience of one.

    Obama is unleashing a force that he may not be able to control once it gets rolling, and he may not be aware of that, but no matter. He is putting together a group based on the idea of change and that really could form the core of a cadre to work that change, could it not? Now people are becoming aware that the 'public's misery is becoming public' and we see each other. There is no retreat from that.

    -7.25/-6.41 If you don't like what you hear on the news, go out and make some of your own. -Scoop Nisker

    by sravaka on Thu Feb 14, 2008 at 03:52:11 PM PST

    •  From your lips... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Obama is unleashing a force that he may not be able to control once it gets rolling, and he may not be aware of that, but no matter. Marx's ears.

      Forthcoming from the Orange Press: "Planet Marx."

      by Trotsky the Horse on Thu Feb 14, 2008 at 03:55:32 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  well put (0+ / 0-)

      but I also see the possibility that Obama is even more cynical than the others, insofar as he COULD be blowing smoke up everybody with the hope & whatnot spiel.  Not saying that he is, but it's been done before & I don't know that he's given me any particular reason to trust him ('though he apparently says "Trust me" or the like very persuasively).

      The truth shall make ye fret... -William DeWorde

      by flagpole on Thu Feb 14, 2008 at 04:14:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm sure you're right. (0+ / 0-)

        That's why I'm following Sartre (who, by the way, is to my mind more genuinely Marxist in this), I'm arguing that it doesn't really matter whether Obama or Clinton lie, inasmuch as they have less control (will of the ruler) over events than most would imagine.

        Forthcoming from the Orange Press: "Planet Marx."

        by Trotsky the Horse on Thu Feb 14, 2008 at 05:11:11 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  couldn't agree more (0+ / 0-)

          all this whooping and hollering is kind of silly.  I'm trying not to indulge, although I can't help myself occasionally:  all the hope and stuff gives me the willies.

          Trotsky is a hero of mine, although I'm not able to be a Marxist myself, except in a purely figurative way:  it would be very cool if his philosophy actually could be made to work, but I can't see it happening (as with all philosophies I've encountered except Bokonon and Didactylos).  I became acquainted with it through my studies of 20th century Germany and Russia, and spent way too much time in the Soviet Union.  Which, I'll grant, was lousy application of the principles from the get-go and ever worse as it went along.  

          As for Sartre, I'm afraid I ODed at an early age, through reading The Nausea in the original French at the age of 16.  Cured me of Sartre, French (although I still use it a bit), and, pretty much, of nausea, as far as I can tell (except the figurative).  Also drove me to drink, 'though, of course, that wasn't a long drive at 16 in 1971, considering I was momentarily unable to score any pot.

          The truth shall make ye fret... -William DeWorde

          by flagpole on Thu Feb 14, 2008 at 07:06:54 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Dear Trotsky the Horse (0+ / 0-)

    Enjoyed your diary and the Sartre anecdote.  
    However, on the text regarding the campaign, you lost me with "Clinton doesn't lie, relatively speaking."  She damned well does and knows it. Projecting that Obama might switch a position after he's elected is feeble evidence that "Obama lies because he has to." Your premise is faulty.

  •  Ayup. (0+ / 0-)

    "Sartre would have answered that he hadn’t turned up at Saint-Germain-des-Prés to see miracles happen but in solidarity with the man, and with his hopes."

    "...we’re not talking about shared goals, we’re talking about shared expectations."

    Fine, fine distinction.

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