Rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
The Power of Example
In the September/ October issue of Foreign AffairsJoe Biden was quoted as saying, “America’s greatest
strength is not the example of our power but the power of our example.” The
simple play of words actually illustrates a profound truth that goes beyond the question
of foreign policy. It’s the difference between coercion and attraction. A
leader of a family or a corporation can throw the weight of their position into
encouraging others to follow his rules or he or she can act in such a way that
those in his or her ken naturally seek to emulate his or her behavior.
The electoral process is something that’s easy to take for granted, particularly if
you’ve grown up in the States. Only in the intermittent threats to this right is its preciousness often realized. Americans elected the first black president
and now the first woman candidate has been defeated. Still as you see people waiting in lines that often
snake around city blocks to get to the polls, it’s a moving prospect that can
create a feeling of patriotism even in those who may be philosophically
indisposed to such emotions. Commentators have talked about the legacy of the
current election in negative terms, but this mightily contested race has also
reinvigorated an appreciation of what it means to take part in the
democratic process. Our military may be equipped with the latest killing
machines, but nothing will ensure freedom and liberty in a world where terrorist
acts specifically seek to undercut these values than the specter of an electorate peacefully casting their ballots. Thoreau famously said, “the mass of men lead lives of quiet
desperation.” But there's something amazing and astonishing in a process that
makes millions of individuals feel their vote counts.
Francis Levy's debut novel, Erotomania: A Romance, was released in August 2008 by Two Dollar Radio.
His short stories, criticism, humor, and poetry have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Village Voice, The East Hampton Star, The Quarterly, Penthouse, Architectural Digest, TV Guide, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, and other publications. One of his Voice humor pieces was anthologized in The Big Book of New American Humor (HarperCollins). He is presently the Co-Director of The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination (philoctetes.org), where he supervises roundtable discussions on topics as varied as “The Psychology of the Modern Nation State” and “Modern Traffic Theory, Behavior, and Imagination”.