The Emptiness Behind American Eyes

Do yourself a favor and watch/listen to “In Praise of Shadows,” a phenomenal speech by Morris Berman, who eloquently discusses the pathology of emptiness in American life. (You can read the transcript here.)

Who is Barack Obama, in fact? If you look into his eyes, through the medium of television or newspaper photographs, you see a certain type of vacancy there. Rhetoric, after all, is just rhetoric; beneath it lies an empty person. He’s chic, he’s poised, and in a spiritual sense he stands for nothing at all. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat captured this quite accurately when he wrote, last month, that Obama is basically a performance. The man is a shell; he lacks an inner moral compass, which is why Wall Street and the Pentagon and the National Security Agency were able to seduce him so easily. Since he is an empty vessel, he was quickly filled up with the agendas of the wealthy and the powerful, such that even genocide is now part of his own agenda. Of course, the type of vacancy I’m talking about can also be seen in the eyes of Mr. Clinton, Bush Jr. and Sr., or Mitt Romney—remember him?—who was little more than a walking haircut, and one of the emptiest individuals to have ever graced the American political stage. But what does it mean, that the American people want “hollow men,” as T.S. Eliot once put it, to represent them? (Romney, after all, garnered 47% of the popular vote.) As the comedian George Carlin once put it, “Where do you think our leaders come from? Mars?

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