I’m always on the lookout for someone to explain to me – and I say this with a completely straight face, and no hint of irony – why I voted for Barack Obama. I don’t mean that cynically. I know why I voted for him, but I should say I’m always on the lookout for anyone who can explain why I voted for Barack Obama better than I can. And, in a more general sense, I’m always looking out for anyone who can articulate beliefs similar to mine – as I’ve mentioned before, I’m still searching for a coherent and comprehensive worldview, since some of my beliefs, if followed to their logical conclusions, can tend to be contradictory. I know what I believe, and I know what’s right when I hear it, but I’m always interested in anyone who can explain it better than I can. As an aspiring writer, you can imagine that this takes a certain amount of humility…which are two other things that may seem contradictory – aspiring writer and humility – but are not mutually exclusive.
Anyway, this has all been a long way around to the fact that the good folks at Esquire, specifically one Tom Junod, have once again articulated what is in my head better than I can (emphasis mine):
I watched the inauguration on Fox News. I admit there was some perversity involved — I wanted both to tremble with outrage and to gloat. I also wanted to remember why I liked Barack Obama, and there is no better way of liking Barack Obama than watching him on a network that pays people to hate him. His first term was questionable in many ways, but one thing was certain — he wasn’t them. He wasn’t Brit and Megyn and Brett and Chris, with their grievances and their grudges and their hurt feelings, and he wasn’t the man they were still half-heartedly defending, Mitt Romney.
On any list of Obama’s best qualities, this should be at or near the top. It is certainly one of the best arguments in favor of him.
The article is a brilliant piece about how extensively Fox News has marginalized itself, and is very much worth reading in its entirety. Junod continues:
Tom Junod, in a post for The Politics Blog at Esquire magazine, reveals the national perspective that has been gleaned from the Sandy Hook shooting:
In the days following the massacre in Newtown, CT, there was a genuine sense of moral panic in the United States — the sense that we had lost the ability to protect our children from evil. At the same time, there were stirrings of a moral confidence verging on triumphalism, a sense that the relativism said to beset modern America might at last give way to clarity. At Sandy Hook Elementary, evil had done us the favor of staring us in the face. We could no longer deny either its existence or its nature. We could resist it only by embracing the idea of it. We could even define it without provoking the usual partisan disagreements:
What is evil? Evil is what murders children.
I mean for the sentiment of this quote to stand on its own. I won’t make the argument here, but you might be able to tell what corollary extrapolation Junod is heading toward, and it’s a tough case to make – or not.
Either way, this feels a lot like the favor evil did us on September 11th, 2001, a day on which it also stared us in the face, before disintegrating through our fingers like so much dry sand and dispersing across the globe… The doctrines of domestic policy that are proceeding from the Sandy Hook shooting seem as likewise ill-advised as the doctrines of foreign policy that proceeded from 9/11, and may be just as poorly supported.
Another very good and forward-looking article. It is about the shooting – or shooters in general – but in a broad social context rather than a specific what-we-should-do-about-it context, and it mercifully does not take a stance on or even mention any of the controversial buzzword issues. Just more food for thought.
Why We Can’t Stop Rampage Shooters by Tom Junod
(includes very perceptive commentary from NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelley)
An excerpt from the piece:
If he lives in Queens, and if he started his journey in, say, Pakistan, we will call him a terrorist, and have a reasonable chance of stopping him before he kills anyone. If he lives in an American town instead of an American city, and started his journey in his American bedroom, we will call him a “shooter” and we have almost no chance of stopping him at all. We will only find out about him after he has turned his geographic particulars into a nightmarish shorthand — “Aurora,” “Tuscon,” and, of course, “Columbine” — and after the horror he unleashed has been doubled by our helpless knowledge that it fell within a rhythm of horrors, nearly a schedule of horrors, with many more yet to come.
From Tom Junod in the December issue of Esquire magazine:
By the very terms of American exceptionalism, the greatest American invention of all time is American exceptionalism. It wouldn’t be exceptional if it weren’t American, and it wouldn’t be American if it weren’t exceptional, but since it’s both, it has to be the greatest by definition.
America is the greatest country in the world because it is America, and Americans are the greatest people in the world because they are Americans. It doesn’t matter what they do as long as they do it, and as long as they do it, it doesn’t matter what they do.
American exceptionalism might not be a religion, but all genuine American religions preach American exceptionalism, so American exceptionalism trumps and subsumes religion by offering its own form of absolution. The Constitution declares us to be a free people, but American exceptionalism declares us to be an innocent people whose sins turn, over time, into rights.