Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sympathy for the Devil

The roar of the crowd inside McCormick Place was like that greeting a major rock act. Only the Boss or Mick Jagger could elicit this kind of response and the ticket was probably as hard to come by as one for a Stones concert. But let’s ponder the difference between being Barack Obama and Keith Richards. Obama is a Nobel prize winner so it seems apt to compare him to someone with intellectual aspirations and Richards is the author of one of those mixtures of autobiography and philosophy, a work entitled simply Life, that we might place between The Autobiography of John Stuart Mill and The Confessions of Saint Augustine in our Kindle’s bullpen. The big difference would seem to be this, John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton notwithstanding (by the way Clinton’s name was curiously absent from the list of those the beaming Obama thanked), if you are president of the United States, you cannot do what you want while if you are Keith Richards or Mick Jagger you can. Both presidents and rock stars are elected by the people, but once you become a star, you attain a kind of nobility that places you above the law. OK Jimmy Savile’s reputation has been posthumously destroyed by the allegations he abused underaged girls and pedophilia is not an option for rock stars anymore than it is for TV personalities. But the key point is that presidents have to be good and rock stars basically increase their audiences by being bad. They are proxies for our dreams of adoration and omnipotence. Many rocks stars are surely great performers but off-stage they often behave like overgrown infants in highchairs. At some point in his life every American boy or girl dreams of being president, but eventually they also dream of being a rock star. So given the choice, who would you rather be, Barack Obama making an acceptance speech after being elected for a second term or Mick Jagger opening up his band’s US Tour at the Prudential Center in Newark?

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