Thursday, April 17, 2008

Wiggles, Hillary And Obama

At some time in the future, it is not impossible to imagine a fresh faced, third year college student, perhaps studying rhetoric – if only they will bring it back as a course of study in colleges – laboring over a thesis that has as its center piece the recent so called “debate” between Democrat presidential candidates senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

The paper might be called “A comparative Study in Wiggles.”

Concerning her “sniper under fire” remarks, Clinton said, “On a couple of occasions in the past week, I said some things I knew weren’t the case. I’m embarrassed by it. I’ve apologized for it.”

Not too much wiggle room there: “I said some things I knew weren’t the case” means, to put it in the vernacular, “I lied,” or more tenderly, to borrow a phrase from Huck Finn talking about Mark Twain, I told “a stretcher.”

Here is Obama on his “bitter” statement: “I think there’s no doubt that I can see how people were offended. It’s not the first time that I’ve made … a statement that was mangled up.”

The statement that was “mangled up” – by others of course – was this one: Obama said that small town Americans become bitter because of economic adversity and “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.”

Among the people who have “mangled up” Obama’s very straight forward assertion is George Will, who wrote in one of his recent columns: “Explaining why many working-class voters are ‘bitter,’ he said they ‘cling’ to guns, religion and ‘antipathy to people who aren't like them’ because of ‘frustrations.’ His implication was that their primitivism, superstition and bigotry are balm for resentments they feel because of America's grinding injustice.”

This is an explication, not a mangle. And putting Obama’s most damaging assertion “into context” as was suggested recently by, among others, Colin McEnroe, does not relieve Obama of offering a straightforward apology, minus the rhetorical dodges, if Obama does not mean what he so clearly said.

It is not the structure of the assertion that is offensive but the assertion itself.

Here is another commentator, Mickey Kaus reacting to Obama’s assertion in Slate, an internet magazine: “It lumps together things Obama wants us to think he thinks are good (religion) with things he undoubtedly thinks are bad (racism, anti-immigrant sentiment). I suppose it's logically possible to say 'these Pennsylvania voters are so bitter and frustrated that they cling to both good things and bad things,' but the implication is that these are all things he thinks are unfortunate and need explaining (because, his context suggests, they prevent voters from doing the right thing and voting for ... him). Yesterday at the CNN 'Compassion Forum' Obama said he wasn't disparaging religion because he meant people 'cling' to it in a good way! Would that be the same way they 'cling' to 'antipathy to people who aren't like them'--the very next phrase Obama uttered? Is racism one of those 'traditions that are passed on from generation to generation' that 'sustains us'? Obama's unfortunate parallelism makes it hard for him to extricate him from the charge that he was dissing rural Pennsylvanians' excess religiosity.”

Others have supposed that Obama, feeling at ease in the company of the illuminati in California from whom he expected generous contributions, slipped into the Marxian fallacy so prevalent among academics: the notion that the lower orders suffer from a “false consciousness,” the result of feasting on religious opium.

None of the commentary will get any better if Obama continues to insist that someone else mangled his truth.

The “truth” he so clearly asserted simply is not true. Men do not turn to religion because they are stricken with false consciousness. They turn to it because they perceive in it a meta-reality that is invisible to the hard of hearing and the hard of heart, as well as the solipsists in California and elsewhere who have ears, and deep pockets, “but who hear not…”

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Some few people turn to religion when they have lost their jobs and their way of life. Sometimes, their religion tells them that abortion is wrong, that homosexuality is wrong, and that contraception is wrong. Since they don't have much left, they "cling" to their religion without really questioning all that it teaches them.

When it comes time to vote, they sometimes have a choice. One party might help them find a job, and help them afford health care, and keep their sons and daughters out of wasteful wars.

Another party supports their opinion on abortion, homosexuality, or contraception, and tries to impose that outlook on everyone by law, regardless of religious belief. Because their religion is one of the few stable institutions in their lives, they vote for this party, against their own self interest.

Obama mangled his statement. It is crystal clear that he values religion. To state otherwise, based on one statement from literally thousands of public statements, is idiotic.

Don Pesci said...

It is possible to understand the logic of the statement, as you understand it, while at the same time disagreeing with the statement.

Not everyone who turns to Republican Catholicism, as you have described it, has been driven in this direction by a loss of a job, or by some other tragedy. Some people are Catholic and Republican because they feel grateful. For what?

For being alive, for not being, shall we say, aborted. Some people, even some Catholics, turn to religion from a sense of joy and thankfulness.

It is not necessary to make a religion of politics to understand Obama, or any other politician.

Religion is really larger than politics. If Obama had expressed THAT decidely un-Marxian sentiment, he would not be in the pickle jar.

Featured Post

Casey Chadwick’s Uneasy Life after Death

Casey and her mother Wendy "I just started grief counseling. I'm always sad. I'm sad and in pain and I miss her." ...