Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Reading: The Cynic and the President

While you're waiting for the polls to close (I'll be watching returns from my office beginning at 5pm PT), here's a taste of ”The Cynic and President Obama,” the follow-up to Charles Pierce's 2008 Esquire article “The Cynic and Senator Obama.”
The cynic doesn't believe that history is an arc, bending inexorably in any particular direction or another. An arc is a geometric figure tightly circumscribed by mathematical formulae. For the cynic, history is a river, wilder than most, with eddies and whirlpools and backwaters, and an original course to which it always seeks to return. What the cynic has learned over the past twelve years is the truth in Faulkner's observation that the past is never dead, it is not even past.

Nothing ever sinks in the river for good. Everything is thrown to the surface again. He believes that the river churns up the muck from the bottom and brings it to the surface. He believes we can get caught in backwaters so obscure that they no longer appear on modern maps. The cynic also believes that the river can run clear and fresh and soft. But not often. Most of the time, it seeks its original course, and occasionally, despite all the levees and dams and locks we apply to it in order to govern ourselves, it overwhelms them all and floods our pale attempts at civilizing ourselves. That, the cynic thinks, is what happened during the eight years prior to the election of the current president. Not even the sturdiest structures held fast when fear and reckless jingoism sent history back to its original course — which, in case anyone has forgotten, was not democracy. Four years earlier, the cynic wondered if the president was the man to count the cost, whether he could make the country see the wreckage for what the wreckage truly was--the abandonment of the protections of self-government and the flood tide of history that had washed the remnants of that protection away.
"The Cynic and President Obama" is going on the p3 Readings list. (Note that the links to recent readings in the sidebar will soon go away as part of the long-overdue p3 site redesign, but all readings -- going back to 2005 -- will always be available through the Readings link on the p3 List at right.)

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