DoubleThink online is holding a symposium on the legacy of Reagan in the age of Obama this week, and they couldn’t kick it off with a more thoughtful, clear-eyed piece than the one by the always brilliant James Poulos. Here’s a bite:
Reagan’s legacy is a rough draft for Obama’s largely to the extent that the American people want it to be. And they want it to be to the extent that they want—now, more than ever—clarity, optimism, and a renewed sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship! Note: a sense of a thing is not that thing [emphasis added]. But often we want both to have the thing and the reflective feeling of experiencing it—what use is dynamism if we can’t feel ourselves being dynamic? Consider, however, that this attitude can encourage us therapeutically to live in denial. Just how little real freedom, we might ask subtly, do we actually need to retain an inspiring-enoughsense of freedom?
Indeed, we frenetic Americans—now, more than ever—know that we must surrender and outsource many of our daily activities in order to ensure that daily life isn’t a raw deal. Who has time, as Obama’s nominees can attest, to do their own taxes? Who has time to raise their own children? Who has time to do the petty, slow work of local citizenship? We shore up our fragments of faith with the audacity of ‘senses of’: faith in the sense of civic-mindedness that persists when we are not doing civic-minded things; faith in the sense of parenthood that persists when we are not parenting; faith in the sense of citizenship that persists when we elect and celebrate leaders who promise that a sense is enough because attitude, just as we needed to hear, is the one needful thing.
See also Phil’s great “Happy Birthday Reagan” post.