Why a U.S. Politician Would Never Claim Beckett as Their Favorite Writer

I have so agree with Andrew Sullivan on this,”Somehow I cannot imagine a presidential candidate in the US unloading this five days before voting.”

This is Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the U.K. on his favorite author, Samuel Beckett,

Since then I must have read Waiting for Godot – of course – a hundred times. Every time I go back to Beckett he seems more subversive, not less; his works make me feel more uncomfortable than they did before. The unsettling idea, most explicit in Godot, that life is habit – that it is all just a series of motions devoid of meaning – never gets any easier.

It’s that willingness to question the things the rest of us take for granted that I admire most about Beckett; the courage to ask questions that are dangerous because, if the traditions and meanings we hold so dear turn out to be false, what do we do then?

Somehow I cannot imagine a US politician ever unloading anything like this in print or in speech. You can imagine the uproar on this side of the pond: “‘Life Is Meaningless, Declares Party Leader!” or “Party Leader Says We Might As Well Kill Ourselves!”

Remember the manufactured outrage over Obama supposedly not putting his hand over his heart during the playing of the national anthem or recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance? Because in the U.S. MSM any gesture that is short of rabid patriotism is considered tantamount to treason when it comes to judging the suitability of a candidate for higher office.

It just goes to show how empty these gestures of patriotism have become thanks to force of habit; a series of required motions, rendered almost meaningless. (“Why do you hate America?!”) I think it’s this unarticulated feeling that really upsets the small-minded among us. The fear that all their ardor is for an imperfect country. They feel that to admit to our country’s imperfections is to call into question its fundamental existence. Which is not true. But that doesn’t stop the small-minded from making strange contortions of logic by arguing that torture is a U.S. value consistent with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, or that we can deliver democracy to another country through Shock and Awe.

Related to this, for once, I’d like to see a major political campaign logo not use red, white, & blue, or even evoke the flag…Fat chance of that ever happening. That would be deemed unpatriotic and subversive. The willingness to question things we take for granted is neither valued nor rewarded.

I don’t mean to make Clegg out to be some true subversive, or say that UK voters are any more adept at seeing through campaign bullshit. He’s a politician and all that goes with it. (He’s the result of a private school education and a member of the Oxbridge Ruling Class.) It’s just fascinating to see a major politician write a short article about how their favorite author is someone as discomforting and humorous as Beckett. By contrast President George W. Bush said his favorite philosopher was Jesus Christ. And how did that work out for us?

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3 thoughts on “Why a U.S. Politician Would Never Claim Beckett as Their Favorite Writer

  1. You’re right, I doubt a politician in the U.S. would utter anything even approaching this kind of a quote. Whenever a politician here is asked about a favorite writer, they always give a bland, vanilla response.

  2. “Remember the manufactured outrage over Obama supposedly not putting his hand over his heart during the playing of the national anthem or recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance?”

    Hehehe, here there was an outcry when a politician (and a Minister of Parliament) placed his hand over his heart when the Indian National Anthem was played/sung. Indians just stand in attention.

    I’m just pondering about a political campaign with Indian or Carribean colors – green, yellow, orange! Wouldn’t it be strange?

  3. @Killer Campaigning, I wish it weren’t so. That Beckett, a writer whose reputation as one of the greats is not in doubt, would be a controversial writer to claim as a U.S. politician’s favorite is both strange and sad.

    @Jeena, yes! Green, yellow, and orange. And maybe throw in some purple and black for the hell of it.

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