Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Emperor Wears No Clothes: Is President Obama Smarter than the Saints?

According to Valerie Jarrett, one of President Obama's closest advisers, Barack Obama is amazingly smart and darn well knows it.  "He knows exactly how smart he is," Jarrett said. "I think that he
Our president
"bored to death his whole life"
has never really been challenged intellectually . . . . He's been bored to death his whole life. He's just too talented to do what ordinary people do. He would never be satisfied with what ordinary people do."

Valerie Jarrett's effusive praise for our president reminded me of that Hans Christian Andersen tale about the emperor who wore no clothes.  You remember the story.  Once there was an emperor who cared about nothing but his appearance. A couple of swindlers came along and promised to make him a suit of the finest clothes, which would be made from the most expensive fabric.  The fabric has a special quality, the swindlers told the emperor.  Stupid people or people unfit for their positions would not be able to see the emperor's fine suit of clothes.

The emperor bought into this deception and paraded around wearing nothing at all.  He was afraid to admit that he could not see the clothes for fear of being thought stupid. His aides and advisers also pretended to see the non-existent clothing, fearing they too would be thought stupid.

Finally, a child blew the whistle on the scam. "But the emperor is wearing nothing at all," the child proclaimed. Everyone began jeering, while the emperor continued pretending that he was finely dressed.

So how smart is President Obama? I think he's pretty smart, but maybe not quite as smart as Valerie Jarrett thinks he is.  I agree with Jarrett, however, that the President is too talented to do what ordinary people do.  After all, ordinary people tell the truth, apologize for their mistakes, and try to show a decent respect for other people's values and religious beliefs.  Yes, President Obama is certainly too talented to behave like ordinary people.

Valerie Jarrett's comment about President Obama set me to thinking: What are the qualities I admire in the people I most respect? I admire the saints, and certain saints in particular: Saint Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, and Saint Edith Stein. I also admire a woman who will one day become a saint: Dorothy Day.

St. Edith Stein
How smart was she?
Were the saints smart people? Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Catherine of Siena and Saint Edith Stein were all named doctors of the Church, so I think they were pretty smart.  But I don't admire them for their intelligence. I admire them for their courage, their kindness, their patience, and their humility.

Saint Edith Stein gave herself up to the gas chambers of Auschwitz even though she might have escaped to Switzerland.  Was that a smart thing to do?  Maximilian Kolbe volunteered for the starvation bunkers of Auschwitz  to save the life of a young man with a family. Was that smart?

And Dorothy Day could have been a famous journalist--she might have become the Maureen Dowd of her age. But she gave her life to the poor. How smart was that?

And so our nation rolls along, ruled by an arrogant dissembler, while the New York Times, like the townspeople in the Hans Christian Andersen story, gushes about what an extraordinarily great and brilliant man Barack Obama is.

And I, like the child in the story about the emperor, do not perceive what so many important people claim to see. I must be very stupid because, unlike Valerie Jarrett and the New York Times, I simply do not see Barack Obama's greatness.

References

George Will. Scalise sets it right. The (Baton Rouge) Advocate, November 24, 2013, p. 6B.

Note: The quotation of Valerie Jarrett is taken from the George Will essay cited above.

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