Thursday, November 27, 2008


In the New Republic online, there is a lovely essay on Obama as the New Adam for America:

Indeed, there is the air of the American Adam about him, for the future is all he has. Biracial, raised in the exotic annex of Hawaii, without a father, and estranged by his racial heritage from parts of his own family; unsure of who he was.   Having to fly in the face of fate in western wilds, he is the nomadic American, and of the Cursed Thirteenth Generation.    Ascending in a time of turmoil and crisis, the future is all he has; no anchor holds him steady and at bay from any touchstone of history. Guidance comes from a father dead. "He receives in his thoughts the dead father", as Richard Lynn eloquently states. Such heroism, borrowed from the realm of the dead, so that "we are born posthumously" , carries the daemon's stamp and seal from above.

The Pauline idea of the Second Adam has been inspirational since the Pioneer days of rugged individualism. Barack Obama, marked by his name as the outsider and wanderer, has fared as the nomadic hero of lore, beating the odds. The mythical story of recreation and resurgence is the cornerstone of the American experience; identity is fluid and the individual has the ability to shed his various skins, Nietzsche-like, unmasking the hero as he makes his way through the badlands of the national landscape.

That venerable American philosopher, Brian Leiter, has said that as a college student, Obama was interested in Freud, Nietzsche and Satre. The vagabond spirit tends toward these three always; they were my great loves in my own youth. Existentialism, the unconscious, and heroism entwined make a golden rope for the lost to hang onto, and clearly Obama felt this lostness and alienation in his youth. Painful as this state is, it is the adversity which Kierkegaard knew well to be the only proper material for the forging of the individual who stands aloof from the state, can see it objectively, and thus can find solutions that are adapted to it and which really work.

The disparate threads of Obama's socialist, political, and judicial philosophy and ideologies are never fully in harmony, but remain in enough conflict to ensure that diversity which brings stimulus, richness, and nuturence from a leader. Eclectic in his leanings, Obama ensures innovation. Change, Progress, Hope: These were his watchwords throughout the election season; rhetoric in surface but in the substratum  born of necessity: He has lost faith in the past, a past he was never fully allowed to participate in and thus was not  real for him. He waited in the wings, a solitary figure, until his convention speech of 2004 unmasked him. "Ad astra per aspera" is for him the sole chance in the offing, the only road which was ever lay before him because it is the only path which speaks to his lostness and longing. From their perch in academia, Howe and Strauss predicted with incredible accuracy the arrival ("somewhere around 2005, perhaps a few years earlier or later") of this leader form the 13th generation, the Nomad, the Xer, who would take the helm unexpectedly and suddenly , and with Nike say, "Just DO it!".


ProfessorM2008 said...

Nice essay, Susan. And I can only speculate as to whether America is prepared to heed Obama's call to sacrifice. We know in the Carter years, this was basically the kiss of death. Biden tried to tie taxation in with participation and sacrifice, and was resented, although his ticket was the final winner. W did not even dare to call for sacrifice in the post 9/11 days when it was most reasonable to ask this of America's citizens.

SM Kovalinsky said...

I think it is clear that sacrifice is no longer a question. It will come of necessity. Happy Thanksgiving to you, and I am so sorry that this Google Blogger has caused you so many technical problems. Will check into it.

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