by Emmett R Smith
A good deal of irrelevant dust has been kicked up about the fact that Senator McCain doesn’t know how many houses, offhand, that he owns or anyway is paying on. This is not the first fact to have eluded the old gila monster from Tempe and to whoop it up now is a plain straightforward play to envy, by the Democrat Party. It is also as irrelevant as the late-modernist Democrats simply because, no doubt about it, Congresswoman and Democrat House Leader Nancy Pelosi, reputedly a tentacled San Francisco real estate baroness herself, obviously could not say any more accurately than la McCain what her net worth is at any given moment.
How could she?
To paraphase F Scott FitzGerald, the political class are indeed different from us….
Now very probably the reason why I am not lumbered with loads of houses and a whole lot of money is because, precisely, wealth is not my individual psychological and moral problem.
And I grant you, envy well could be of course.
For in just the same way, wrongly, we are inclined also to be envious of those who appear happily married. Whereas all that that appearance of contentment means (at least to anyone with even a cursory familiarity with literature) is only that the inevitable horror, all the betrayals and anguish of life, is but waiting silently somewhere else. In the wings of time to come I mean, and from whence to leap and bite the obnoxious happy couples, all right smack dab in their fundamentally inappropriate terms as it were.
Politics is after all just another arena like serial marriage and the Olympics for moral discernment, and resisting the obscenity is after all a question mostly of whether one has a bona fide (not medicated) inner attitude, and to develop which is probably the sole adult task in life.
In a similar grownup way Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck said in 1942, of the C-in-C of the German Army Afrika Korps, “I for one do not envy Rommel.”
And so now I, the aging member of a failed and decayed, professionally, morally and now fiscally busted 1946-64 American generation, find that I am most certainly not envious of Senators McCain or Obama.
To race headlong at full tilt into radarless night, and actually to beg abjectly to be chosen to “lead” in the blundering darkness a whole societyful of the objectively unannointed God-damned in decline through the perils of a gigantic lurch in the history of the world, is a task not lightly to be sought by halfwits and the falsely youthful of any age. Still less will the wise rush to be in on the entire transmogrification for good and all of our constitutional order, into some sort of globally dependent market state. Yet this is the world that now emerges in the wake of the late-modern age which ended nineteen years ago with the collapse of communism and the pulling down of Mr Reagen’s wall, in Berlin.
A measure altogether of the foredoomed anachronism of Senators McCain and Obama is that both are asserting the digital image of an American role in the world now wholly at odds with the new production being rehearsed by history and relentless time.
The Old Atlantic West as preeminent factor and star turn has already passed away into misty foreverness.
Whereas of course Senator McCain is a bona fide war hero.
This is but one of the tragic conditions to creep upon old men who have known young exciting days. It is one moreover, like being Senators Warner or Kennedy (until the sad illness of the latter anyway), which bids fair in the remorseless and sometimes sarcastic way of history to make one into a plain nuisance — like Paul von Hindenburg and Henri Phillipe Petain.
Senator Obama on the other hand is a soaring Peter Pan figure who does very well indeed in the nonetheless obvious and projected struggle, with his own feelings of inferiority. His is the immense profound drive to prevail of the entire Kennedy Irish underclass in American history. The devil though is in the details both politically and morally, and the tragedy of Senator Obama is that of any dreamy introvert — and one no longer quite so young as all of that! — trying to go about in the gaudy plumes of extraversion, duds neither particularly “democratic,” not really, nor really even his. Indeed, because of that same root necessity and the continuous awful selfconsciousness that goes with it, Senator Obama marginally may have some wee edge of gnawing self-insight over Senator McCain, as to motive if not any coherent final purposes. If so, it will be the ironic gift of puer aeternal neurosis as elucidated by Dr Jung. For after all, Naval Aviator McCain performed heroically the task most vital to his young manhood many years since in the world and may now indeed, like the weary America of his junior Baby Boom peers, be fuming along only on dry dead empty. He gives the cheery impression of a kind grinning scabby golem, held yet to life only by a combined roster of already scheduled medical checkups for years ahead (at the VA one supposes, like all the other loyal veterans), and the mesmerizing excitements of here-and-now campaigning. In any case — unavoidably as I know now at even merely sixty — Senator McCain increasingly, day by day, conflates in the way of all of the plain old what is merely personal extinction ahead. This daily is mashed indistinguishably with all the other toothless questions of our wadded-together national destiny, all hidden carefully away in the possible years of nursinghome White House Veterans’ Days to come.
A dull sort of riddle it is, this 2008 presidential year concealed in the commonplace enigma of ego-identity with indeed great causes, so that the real question now is, really, can any of this stuff — none of it is quite “right,” alas — be anyway just maybe, well, just good enough?
The grim case is that historically the American people, today a willful load of braying constitutional ignoramuses and bereft asses all waving credit cards, are indeed getting from history both the muslims, and the presidential candidates and the four dollar gasoline, they no doubt so richly deserve. And that is democracy too after all, as H L Mencken said, “…the theory that ‘the people’ deserve to get what they want, good and hard.”
[Emmett R Smith all rights reserved 24 August 2008]