Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Second Coming

"My only advantage as a reporter is that I am so physically small, so temperamentally unobtrusive, and so neurotically inarticulate that people tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests. And it always does. That is one last thing to remember: writers are always selling somebody out."
-Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem
Is ‘The One’ Cocky or Commander in Chiefy?
By MAUREEN DOWD
Published: July 23, 2008

It seems that Maureen Dowd did manage to stow away aboard Barack Obama’s press plane or…
O-Force One, as The Chicago Sun Times mockingly calls the candidate’s freshly branded 757, with the captain’s chair embroidered with “Obama-’08/President.”
The psycho-sexual freight of anything called O-Force is not something I really want to touch so it’s good we have Lynn Sweet to blame for this phrase. Not that Maureen isn’t hard at work on the English language. We get our Crossword Puzzle Clue Of The Week® with “lacunae” which is a fancy –schmacy word for “gaps”:
The media behemoth slouching after the senator is scouring his every word, expression, bead of sweat, basketball shot and accessory — are those hiking boots too Bremer? Are the sunglasses too rapper? Will he leave enough time for his glittery groupie, Carla Bruni? — for hints of imperfection that would foretell lacunae in presidential judgment.
Since the column dateline is Jerusalem (aka the NYT Derry, NH field office) the use of slouching invokes either Joan Didion’s use of the phrase “slouching towards Bethlehem” which in and of itself is an allusion to Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming” below:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
The apocalyptic imagery of Yeats is mocked, along with Obama with further ironic asides about his exalted image:
The One, as McCain aides sardonically call Obama, glided through Afghanistan, Iraq and Jordan, girding his messianic loins for the inevitable kvetching he would face in Israel as skeptical Jews “try to get a better sense of what’s in Obama’s kishkes.”
Dowd helpfully explains the Yiddish-ism:
So said Nathan Diament of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, in The Daily News, defining “kishkes” as Yiddish for gut.
But it is ‘loins’ that evokes another uncomfortable adjective:
At moments, Obama was acting as though he were already “on a coin,” as Jon Stewart would say. But cocky or not, he needs to swoop up to conquer so Americans can picture him in the role.
But it's not just Americans taken with Obama. He crosses cultural and religious lines.
The One left them swooning in Jordan. A member of the king’s inner circle who attended the chicken-and-rice dinner with King Abdullah and Queen Rania said that Obama had gone a long way toward assuaging their fears that he would be so eager to run away from his paternal family’s Muslim roots and to woo skeptical American Jews that he would not be “the honest broker” they long for after W.’s crazed missionary work in the Middle East.
And with missionary zeal, we can await the Second Coming of The One.

1 comment:

Grace Nearing said...

Dinner entrees are a choice of beef medallions, baked tilapia or eggplant parmesan.

I see Lynn Sweet, like Dowd, likes to work the day's menu (this is from O-Force One) into her column. Perhaps the beef medallions are the culinary equivalent of messianic loins.