Monday, September 28, 2009
Ideas Does Not A Reality Make
"It's a strange thing to go through life as a social experiment. If you were born of ideas, then all you have are ideas," so opens one of the chapters of Man Gone Down which chronicles the ups and downs of a Black intellectual raised in the post-Civil Rights Era at a climactic point in his life. It summed up a groundswell of feeling I was experiencing watching our current President at the UN and the subsequent G-20 Conference.
I could not help but wonder where were all the ideas of the pre-election fervor had gone. To my endless inquiries of EVIDENCE of change I have been met only with deaf replies. Where is the normalization of relations with Cuba? Where are much vaunted reforms? The closure of the wars abroad? The realization of smart power? The healthcare overhaul seems to be a mote in the eye which will be washed away like a speck of dirt during the morning's ablutions.
The reality is that the Obama Presidency itself is a grand idea, fed by the American imagination but simultaneously riddled with the shortfall of American idealism. Americans are haunted by the idea of equality, bracing to embrace the idea of it but unwilling to recognize that validating humanity means demystifying any particular notions of racial identity, cultural origin and thus any attachments-favorable and unfavorable-to these. In effect this particular Presidency is a social experiment, and experiments always imply a norm (i.e., control group) versus a delta (i.e., change group). Of course, the most snowed under regarding the experiment is the titular head of the country, and this is attributable to the realm of ideas without action that have circumscribed the world from which he has sprung.
I fear that an ensuring passage of the novel presages much of the future of Presidential idea: "I suppose I should have been a superhero or an agent with no mission-AWOL, lost, forgotten, like a cold war relic, the laboratory, the training camp blown-up, the notes destroyed, my creator insane or in ashes...I should have been a vampire or a werewolf. But if that were the case, then there would be some kind of unbroken bloodline tracing back to the original. I feel artificial, man-made, like saccharin or LSD, something synthetic that was fucked up but issued nonetheless. I should have been something inexplicable, but at the same time nameable-a tolerable paradox, a recognizable dichotomy...guardian of the land of the obvious; and, obviously, phenotypically different. My internal conflicts need be expressed not in words..."
But unfortunately words and ideas are all the grass which has grown since the taking of the oath. We are masters of the oratory, and wielders of the image, but manifestation is a discipline we have yet to brandish and exercise with truth. There were smatterings in the press of the term engagement in dealing with other sovereign powers last week. The veritable question is, "How engaged are we with ourselves within the American landscape?"