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Salvation through fanship

By Michael J. Smith on Thursday October 23, 2008 10:25 PM

In an earlier post, I marveled at the apparent thick-headedness of some of my neighbors -- elderly upper-west-siders who have seen more of history than I have, and who are certainly no dumber than I am. Yet these alter-kakers are all suddenly decked out in Obamawear -- the hats, the shirts, you've seen it -- and looking very smug.

This in New York, where their efforts -- such as they may be -- are obviously nugatory. The only way Obama could fail to carry this state is to be found in bed with a live boy, a dead woman, Jesse Jackson, and Osama bin Laden, all at the same time.

Part of it, of course, is that many of my neighbors are celebrating, perhaps slightly over-celebrating, a personal moral victory. Yeah, the guy's a schwartzer, but hey, he's a Democrat -- so he's my man. I'm not prejudiced, you know.

But that just pushes the question back a step, doesn't it? Whence arises the psychic income of voting -- even working -- for a Democrat, schwartzer though he may be?

Most of these folks don't appear to be hurting. They can, it seems, afford their exorbitant Manhattan rents or co-op maintenance payments. The Bush years, bad as they may have been for people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Dearborn, and other areas of the Third World, haven't taken too much wind out of my neighbors' sails. But their animus against the current Chief Executive is very intense, and their enthusiasm for the schwartzer correspondingly keen.

There is, of course, the culture thing. They can't stand a hick, my neighbors -- either a halfway real hick, like Sarah Palin, or a totally faux hick, like G W Bush. Those voices, those accents -- vade retro!

But I think the bottom line is that my neighbors believe, like the folks who bought Johann Tetzel's indulgences back in the day, in salvation by works -- where the works in question are inconsequential piaculative acts: a copper coin in the poorbox, a quick little circuit of the Stations in the parish church.

In fact, the inconsequence of supporting Obama is part -- a very important part -- of its charm. These folks don't really want anything to change very much. Why should they? They're not hurting.

But they like to feel righteous, my neighbors. They like to believe they're on the side of the angels. They want their ticket punched: This is to certify that the bearer has done his or her bit for enlightenment, humane values, and peace -- once those pesky terrorists are taken care of. In the meantime, of course, war is fine -- as long as it's smart war, not stupid hick war.

Bush and Co. are obviously bad people. My neighbors think of themselves as good people. And yet one would not really want to turn the world upside down, would one? Surely the badness of our nation can't be... structural? Surely it's just because bad stupid hick-like people are running the show?

Comes now Mr Obama, with his un-hick-like demeanor, his manifest intelligence, and his soothingly obvious determination to keep the world right side up. What could be better? Obamaphilia registers your commitment to intelligence, un-hickery -- and the world as it is.

Comments (3)

plato's cave:

Wonderful stuff, Michael! I haven't been here in awhile (I think you took a necessary sabbatical a year or so ago). I'm glad you're back.

You've hit this upper m'class Obamaphilia on the head. It's all around me, even on the north coast of California, and seems to be all there is to the politics of the day. Could change after a few months of falling stock prices and vanishing pensions funds.

Peter Ward:

That seems to be the gimmick of the "campaign"--one party appeals to rednecks the other haters of rednecks and offering a sole concrete distinction in policy: whether to keep abortion legal or not (both are explicitly homophobic, by the way).

You don't meet poor people who are liberals. Liberalism in this context is only possible with a combination of affluence and feeling comfort and physical security (with pathological psychological insecurity mixed in, of course) and I think liberals will have to descend pretty far before they will have the motivation to take any kind of meaningful political action.


the recent piacular acts
peculative Wall Street folks
--may be --
a more robust
instance of good works
venal agency implementaton unit
mysterious ways department

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