Marla R. Stevens

On Barack Obama, Rick Warren, and Leading From Behind

Filed By Marla R. Stevens | December 24, 2008 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Catholic Worker, Obama and Rick Warren, Obama Inauguration, Peter Maurin

Peter Maurin, the French agrarian philosopher co-founder of The Catholic Worker movement, wrote several series of what he called "Easy Essays". Deceptively incisive in their rustic simplicity, frequently solipsistic, always elegantly spare poetic masterpieces stylistically comparable to Rembrandt's etchings in their everyman accessibility, one seems particularly apropos to the Obama style and his contradictory failure in moral thinking regarding LGBT people, civil marriage equality, and other issues we face that have led to the McClurkin and Warren gaffes. The essay, from Maurin's Looking for Leadership series, in its entirety, after the jump.

Politics Is Politics

1. A politician is an artist
in the art of following the wind
of public opinion.
2. He who follows the wind
of public opinion
does not follow
his own judgement.
3. And he who does not follow
his own judgement
cannot lead people
out of the beaten path.
4. He is like the tail of a dog
that tries to lead the head.
5. When people stand behind their president
and their president
stands behind them
they and their president
go around in a circle
getting nowhere.

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Sounds like Catholic church "be a servant of god" propaganda to me. Don't follow the politician but follow the Pope or the "King in Heaven" instead. Theocracy rather than Democracy.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | December 29, 2008 7:03 PM

Maurin was certainly a man of deep faith but he was no slavish follower either of popes or kings and was a strong foe of theocracy, coming closer to being a Marxist instead, albeit with his faith firmly intact -- best described as an agrarian collectivist. While I do not share his faith, I do appreciate that he was among the few who truly lived its tenets in a very practical, earthy way -- with a keen eye dissecting power no matter what its source, particularly as it hypocritically did not live up to promise and especially when dropping that ball created abuse of privilege at the expense of the weak and powerless.

What an excellent post! Pertinent and smart. Thanks.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | December 29, 2008 7:08 PM

You're welcome. When I stumbled upon the piece, I could not help but see an analogy to the wet-finger-in-the-wind permanent campaign approach that is substituting for real leadership too much these days. It gave us DADTDP and DOMA in the Clinton era and portends much not to like now.

It's deeper than that, because we use a peculiar narrative to tell ourselves that that syllogism isn't true. We like to think of society as "progressing" or "advancing" towards some particular goal, when that simply isn't the way it works, on either a micro or a macro level. But we Americans really like to convince ourselves that we're moving forward in history at all times....

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | December 29, 2008 8:00 PM

Precisely -- with the caveat that on rare occasions real progress reveals itself as having taken place. We are a self-delusional bunch when we relapse into Bill Bennett mythology with all its marble pedastaled leaders when, in fact, it is the dynamics of a utopianly fully participatory democracy that our system was designed for and which every failure to attain explains the greater failures in accomplishment of those lofty goals enough that we never really get to see if the design of the system is the problem or not.