Thursday, October 20, 2016

Right ascending: Hillary Clinton in Las Vegas

Now one can anticipate enormous
animation in post mortems of last
night's debate in Las Vegas, as 
further revealing that unbridled
unfitness of Donald Trump for gov-
ernment in a free society. And no
denial of this need be considered.

But I think historians will turn
to Hillary Clinton's presentation
of herself, on that stage, as the
turning point, indeed the bridal
turning point, in her acceptance
of political responsibility. The
departure from her veiled past
may have been occasioned by the
imminence of her selection, and
it may have been enabled by the
staggering haplessness of her 
nemesis. But it was a shift of
momentous revelation, not forti-
fying so much as introducing a
credibility in relation to that
office, which is incontestable.

I have never heard so untram-
meled, uncribbed, uncrabbed a
defense of unconditional free-
dom of reproductive choice in
the many years since I read 
the words, Roe v. Wade in the
newspaper on the day of its
publication. Splendid it was.
Unexpected, unimagined clari-
ty, yielding no ground to the
prospect of working together
with extraneous authorities,
government only first among
them, to trifle with a right.

No professions of its rar-
ity, no confessions of its
temerity, no concession to
its disparity with dogma.
This was a right embodied.

Here was the unveiling, what
the Greeks call the anakalyp-
teria, of the female being as
human policy, and who could
not exult to see it done be-
fore that gender's foulest de-
tractor ever to be exposed to
light, his intimidations quar-
tering him on prime time TV.

And we have come too far
                      to have that turned back
                      now. And, indeed, he said
                      women should be punished,
                      that there should be some
                      form of punishment for wo-
                      men who obtain abortions.
                      And I could just not be
                      more opposed to that kind
                      of thinking.

This is the diction of a
person prepared to assume
office, not of someone ask-
ing to be given it. Possib-
ly, it is structured by im-
minence, but what lasts is
its resolution. Even deeper,
however, is the genius in
this argument, to turn the
intolerably widely tolerated
Trumpian complaint of dir-
tiness in womanhood, of mat-
ter out of place, as the po-
et and classicist Anne Car-
son has it, against the in-
vasions of retrograde con-
tempt for which he stands, 
in public and in private.
Nasty woman, his soliloquy
meant for the camera, is
engraved now on the escut-
cheon of Republicanism.

The long collusion in Hil-
lary Clinton's career, of
the public to conceal the
private, fell away on that
stage. Was it the power in
the right that brought such
candor to its claim, or the
freedom to declare it as de-
light in being born to it?

Anne Carson
Men in the Off Hours
  Dirt and Desire:
  Essay on the Phenomen-
  ology of Female Pollution
  in Antiquity
Random House, 2000©

Edgar Dégas
Self portrait as a
  young man

Saul Leiter


  1. Laurent, you do right pointing out, with those nice words of yours, the power of Hillary Clinton's defense of this "primus inter pares" right, the right to our own bodies. If the sick and repulsive one in the room and the tens of millions of others paying attention steadied her mind and gave eloquence to her words, the occasion was worth the price our Polity paid for hearing the venom he spewed that night.

    And yet, why couldn't she do this earlier?

    1. This is a question which may not be wholly fair: do we know that she couldn't do it earlier, or that the response had been reserved for precisely the setting you describe, to lend maximum effect? Still, we think in the way of your question, but can only speculate.

  2. You have a point, so I'll ask a related question: why couldn't she do things like this earlier?

    1. If this is a "related" question I should say that their molecular distinctions defy my microscope. But I will quibble and speculate, on your word that the question is a new one. First, as to the original question, I don't think she ever went so far as to assert a personal right to the body. This is not, you know, a student of law for no reason. She is conditioned to cling to the narrowest grounds. She scrupulously avoided your hopeful scope in matters of that kind -- right to death, for example -- and I think even her exciting new clarity on pregnancy termination hews strictly to medical lines. Where possible, she tries very much to associate herself with a comparatively leading edge of our phenomenally retrograde Center's bemusement with progress, without beginning to risk a single percentile of a conceivable coalition of followers. But 2015 and 2016 have given her an opening, which the Republicans' idiotic refusal to fill Scalia's seat has only expanded, in which their Statehouse forays against women of poverty, women of lesser education, women of Texanness, and/or women of other emergency in their lives have visibly been held to suffer if a foetus can be compelled to occupy their womb. (She was alluding to this in the debate when interruptions cut her off). Moreover, we saw how the Republican primaries exposed, to a "man" (excuse the ironic attribution), that every Republican's devotion to this compulsive destruction of female liberty is now only parodied in their nominee's degenerate personal conduct and flirtation with witch trial punishment of offenders. The occasion of the debate allowed a spectacle of leadership with no risk. It still is on the record, there are still millions who saw and heard it, and they will encourage her to remember what she said. Why "couldn't" she? I fall back upon my first comment. This is a galleon of much sail, requiring the fairest alignment of the wind, tides, currents, and visibility to venture from its anchorage. But there you are: she saw the opening, and she took it.

  3. At the risk of exhausting your kindness I'll try again, did we have to wait all these years until a window for "leadership with no risk" opened up?

  4. Judging by your earlier posts related to her, I get the sense that you already know the answer.

    In a nutshell, I believe that one can get paralyzed when putting up with a cheater of a husband (no matter how gifted a politician) in order to pursue one's political ambition. It took Trump's unshackled affront, I think, to unshackle her. It probably felt liberating, and that is why I was mesmerized by that third debate.

    1. My previous postings do not suggest the relationship or the consequences you describe. I think I did imply my own "answer" in the last reply, regarding her hewing to the line of the least generalization in response to any set of facts. That said, the second half of your theory is intriguing, as suggesting liberation by an unshackled nemesis. I do not agree with that, either, which is why I think her remarks contain the actual power of glimpsing attaining her quest. I do not see her budging because a bad example shared the stage.

  5. I may have misread you then, and I apologize.

    I would not think of Trump as her nemesis but as a catalyst and so I think that, during that debate, in the presence of such revulsion, she found some depth of purpose and eloquence (all dutifully supported by disciplined preparation) that finally came out of her and gave reason, at least for me, to vote for her and not just against him.

    1. Finding a reason to vote for someone for this office is pretty difficult, a kind of unexpected achievement most of the time. Some time ago, at the time of her nomination, I wrote the most favoring commendation of it that I could muster then, or now. I do encourage everyone to vote for the the candidate likeliest to defeat Donald Trump, and then by all means to participate in the invigoration of the soundest leadership available, throughout our governments. Thank you for your contributions to this discussion.