The French philosopher and biographer of Sartre, Bernard-Henri Levy, has spent a good deal of time thinking and writing about the United States. His most recent book is titled American Vertigo: Travelling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville.
In the New Republic this week, Levy offers his take on Obama:
Four years ago I was one of the first to acknowledge, after having heard, then met, Obama, the emergence of a meteor.
I think the metaphor that Levy uses here is suggestive. The typical cliche for a promising politician is to call him or her a rising star—but Levy likens Obama to something that comes out of the blue, drops down from the sky, and has a massive impact.
The meteor metaphor also has a Second Coming resonance–the Obama as Jesus meme, descending through the clouds to save us all from the Bush Era.
But if you’re a conservative, perhaps you might interject that Satan too is described in the Bible as a star that fell out of the sky.
One should also remember that meteor impacts have a reputation for being rather hard on dinosaurs, and indeed Levy seems to see the Obama meteor as signalling a major “ecological” shift on the continent of North America:
America has changed. It was the conservative Samuel Huntington who said it in his latest book, “Who Are We?”: America is no longer a Protestant, Anglo-Saxon country, European by tradition and white by vocation, that cannot seriously imagine a black man running for the presidency. George W. Bush’s two terms? The swing to the far right the country took after 9/11? The campaigns by those opposing abortion, or the partisans of anti-Darwin creationism? Sure, one could see a marked tendency, a fundamental movement. Or one could also, as in my case, see the shock and desperate mobilization of an America that knows it is dying but is trying nonetheless to delay the moment when it realizes it must surrender.
I’m not sure the French philosopher is right about this. The rumor of Fox News-style conservatism’s death has been made before, and is probably greatly exaggerated. Rush Limbaugh, afterall, just signed a 400 million dollar radio contract renewal, and the folks at Clear Channel must have some marketing data to justify such a hefty payout.
But Levy’s perspective is interesting, and his essay on Obama is here: http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=dfe7a745-e6d0-4fed-9509-f73b4277f7b1