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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, now living in "Portlandia"!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

No one SO proper, SO capable as….Hillary! A strange business in America, indeed!

The lines from President Obama’s remarkable speech tonight at the Democratic National Convention that I suspect, and hope, will be most often repeated, retweeted, and shared during the coming weeks and months, as the American electorate lurches toward its November appointment with destiny, choosing between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, is the following rousing climactic passage:

“And there is only one candidate in this race who believes in that future, and has devoted her life to it; a mother and grandmother who'd do anything to help our children thrive; a leader with real plans to break down barriers, blast through glass ceilings, and widen the circle of opportunity to every single American, the next president of the United States, Hillary Clinton.
That's the Hillary I know. That's the Hillary I've come to admire. And that's why I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman — not me, not Bill, nobody — more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America.”

As I floated along at that moment, deeply moved, on the magic carpet of the President’s tastefully eloquent, persuasive rhetoric, I realized that we were all witnessing the precise karmic instant at which the decade-long, complicated, seesaw history between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton finally came to a soft landing. More than eight years ago, of course, Obama narrowly bested Clinton in a long, bruising primary race, followed thereafter by Hillary’s extraordinarily gracious concession, her supporting Obama in his first victorious race to the White House, and his appointing her as his secretary of state for his first term.

During the current campaign, the President cautiously held back from endorsing Hillary over Bernie until the result of their bruising primary battle had itself become a foregone mathematical conclusion, but this time with Hillary on the other side of the seesaw this time, just far enough ahead to win. And now, finally, tonight, this powerful moment of full reconciliation and positive payback of a debt, and healing of all old wounds.

As I watched the President finish his speech, and then Hillary appeared at the side of the stage, and then they embraced warmly and held onto each other, I could not help but notice the remarkable (albeit entirely coincidental) parallels between this heartwarming climax of a real life political drama played out between a remarkable man and equally remarkable woman, and a fictional tale about a different sort of  second chances, this one in love instead of politics, played out over a similar time span between a fictional male-female pair whose characters have also held millions spellbound.

Rather than give you an explanation, I will just let the creator of that fictional pair tell you in her own words, and I am sure you will be more than capable of discerning and enjoying the richness of the parallels:

“Eight years, almost eight years had passed, since all had been given up. How absurd to be resuming the agitation which such an interval had banished into distance and indistinctness! What might not eight years do? Events of every description, changes, alienations, removals--all, all must be comprised in it, and oblivion of the past-- how natural, how certain too!” 

"Then it is settled, Musgrove," cried Captain Wentworth, "that you stay, and that I take care of your sister home. But as to the rest, as to the others, if one stays to assist Mrs Harville, I think it need be only one. Mrs Charles Musgrove will, of course, wish to get back to her children; but if Anne will stay, no one so proper, so capable as Anne."
She paused a moment to recover from the emotion of hearing herself so spoken of. The other two warmly agreed with what he said, and she then appeared.
"You will stay, I am sure; you will stay and nurse her;" cried he, turning to her and speaking with a glow, and yet a gentleness, which seemed almost restoring the past. She coloured deeply, and he recollected himself and moved away. She expressed herself most willing, ready, happy to remain. "It was what she had been thinking of, and wishing to be allowed to do. A bed on the floor in Louisa's room would be sufficient for her, if Mrs Harville would but think so."

‘I am not yet so much changed,’ cried Anne and stopped, fearing she hardly knew what misconstruction. After waiting a few moments he said, and as if it were the result of immediate feeling, "It is a period, indeed! Eight years and a half is a period."

It is a period, indeed! How wonderful to think about these parallels, and to know that the deep love of country that unites Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is a true one that has healed wounds first suffered eight years ago; and that we, the American people, will be the beneficiaries of that love in November, when we elect the first American female president, an event that I am pretty darned sure would have brought a smile to Jane Austen’s face, even as she might also have added with a twinkle in her eye:

"A strange business this in America….but very pleasing, to be sure!”

Before I close, I cannot resist adding this final quotation from Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, a description of the “not altogether completely agreeable” John Thorpe, which tells us, as if we didn’t already know, that there were men walking around in England two centuries ago who were uncannily similar in character, judgment, and temperament, to a certain candidate for President in 2016 who does not need to be named (although he makes sure his name is always on everyone’s lips nonetheless):

“…all the rest of his conversation, or rather talk, began and ended with himself and his own concerns. He told her of horses which he had bought for a trifle and sold for incredible sums; of racing matches, in which his judgment had infallibly foretold the winner; of shooting parties, in which he had killed more birds (though without having one good shot) than all his companions together; and described to her some famous day's sport, with the fox-hounds, in which his foresight and skill in directing the dogs had repaired the mistakes of the most experienced huntsman, and in which the boldness of his riding, though it had never endangered his own life for a moment, had been constantly leading others into difficulties, which he calmly concluded had broken the necks of many.
Little as Catherine was in the habit of judging for herself, and unfixed as were her general notions of what men ought to be, she could not entirely repress a doubt, while she bore with the effusions of his endless conceit, of his being altogether completely agreeable….”

I mean, really! Could anyone give a more telling textbook definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder than that? The only thing she left out was the size of John Thorpe’s hands!  ;)

Cheers, ARNIE

@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

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