I’m back in California, where the left-turning lanes have signs posted over them reading “cars turning left must yield to oncoming traffic on green.” To which I say: Thank You! Because I often forget the rules of the road while I’m driving! I have a right to be stupid! It’s a free country!
I thought since I did a job on McCain in my last post I’d better even things up with a job on Obama. It’s pretty well known by now that Obama’s mental m.o. is reflective hesitation. He always sees both sides (in this country there are only two sides, ever, sic et non) and, while he can decide between them on an ad hoc basis, he’s always tormented by the thought that his choice wasn’t right, or wasn’t purely right, not right enough, not clean. This, of course, is a virtue: it’s being philosophical. The problem is that he clearly believes that a very great deal rests on his getting things right, on his moral purity.
Every five pages of his book, Dreams From My Father, someone says to him (some version of) “lighten up, Barak.” He records it faithfully, but he can’t do it. In the book’s most telling scene, a girlfriend dumps him with the words, “it’s all about you Barak, isn’t it?” Again he writes it down, and he agonizes over it. But he can’t get the message. He’s not constituted that way. Because it is all about him. The word rests on Obama’s shoulders.
He reminds me of no one so much as St. Augustine. There’s a great scene in the Confessions where Augustine wrestles with the question of whether he’s taking too much pride in his humility. Of course this is a problem without a solution, because the more humble he is (the more it’s not all about him), the more he’s got to be proud of (the more it is all about him). It drives him nuts. But this kind of thing doesn’t drive everybody nuts. The craziness is not necessary. It doesn’t follow from reflective moral engagement. In fact it’s just a big time-waster. Lighten up, Barak!