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November 03, 2008

Please connect the dots

Talk about being a voice in the wilderness. I understand the enthusiasm of the left, particularly the academic left, and especially after these last eight years, for the candidacy of Barack Obama. He represents himself as an agent of change and, more than this, his candidacy represents a potent symbol of change.

But this can't be enough. Not only in this instance, but by definition. This isn't merely true of Barack Obama, a man, but more especially true of Barack Obama as a symbol. You put a man, any man, on a pedestal and the very least you are going to be is disappointed.

Call me a pessimist but we - and by we I mean humanity, all of us, from the very beginning - have been down this road before.

This portrayal of the Messiah as an anti-hero was confusing to many fans who'd been conditioned to expect a protagonist who would serve as the savior of his people. But betraying our expectations was a large part of Herbert's intent.

He once expressed in an interview his concerns about the dangers of hero worship: "I had this idea that superheroes were disastrous for humans". In order to explore this theme in his fiction, Frank Herbert had to portray Paul Muad 'Dib in his inexorable rise as an irresistible and almost flawless leader of men.

Some of his 'fans' think my criticism of Barack Obama is out of line, even out of bounds, suggestive of some bias against him as a man. On the contrary, it is the people who put him on a pedestal - who see him as a symbol before anything else - who refuse to see him as a man. Let us hope the rest of us, including and especially Obama himself, can survive their disappointment.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at November 3, 2008 07:07 AM

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