Monday, November 10, 2008


James Livingston, from the Politics and Letters website:

Great artists stand at the heart of change, telling us where it can and should lead. They glimpse what is evident and yet unknown to the rest of us, and in doing so they introduce us to a new, unfinished world that is nevertheless familiar. They put into words, or pictures, or sounds, what we've been trying to say, or to see, or to hear; they translate our inchoate, archaic languages of mere desire into usable, vernacular forms. That is why we know they're right, even though we didn't know it just before we encountered their ideas. They somehow express the truths we've been waiting for--or rather they embody the possibilities we've been hoping for. The thrill of recognition and the work of identification follow, even as we acknowledge that these artists are nothing like us.

Great politicians have the same effect on us, usually by mapping another country, a new nation, and convincing us that we can get there. Lincoln did. But even by this lofty standard, Barack Obama is already a great politician. At any rate he's convinced me that we're already on our way to the place he's seen.



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