About Me

My photo
Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Does Inspiration Matter?

Two quotes from the January 5th NH debate between Democratic Candidates.

Clinton: "...words are not actions. And as beautifully presented and passionately felt as they are, they are not action. You know, what we've got to do is translate talk into action and feeling into reality. "

Obama: "...the truth is actually words do inspire. Words do help people get involved. Words do help members of Congress get into power so that they can be part of a coalition to deliver health care reform, to deliver a bold energy policy. Don't discount that power, because when the American people are determined that something is going to happen, then it happens. And if they are disaffected and cynical and fearful and told that it can't be done, then it doesn't. I'm running for president because I want to tell them, yes, we can. And that's why I think they're responding in such large numbers."

I think this strikes at the heart of what a lot of liberal voters are wrestling with. Clinton argues that she has the experience and track record to win big fights and get things accomplished as President. Obama offers something more ethereal and risky, but utterly inspiring, at least rhetorically.

The media narratives here are obviously far too simplistic. Clinton is certainly inspiring in her own right, as she may well be the first female president of the United States. She's also far more warm than the punditry tends to admit, by all accounts. Obama, for that matter, isn't some fluffy talker in a nice suit: he's a brilliant writer and thinker who can hold his own with anyone in terms of a deep understanding of the issues. He's also been consistently prescient about foreign affairs in his past statements, which gives the lie to the idea that he's a lightweight.

Certainly, Obama has voted in certain ways I haven't loved; so has Clinton. For all the talk about Obama being more right-wing than Hillary, I find that an essentially laughable idea. The Clinton's made an art of the holding the "center" and Bill Clinton signed DOMA into law. Hillary Clinton has voted repeatedly to give Bush authority to wage his wars. Obama IS inexperienced compared to her though.

In the end, there's no perfect candidate. But both of them, flaws intact, are brilliant, inspiring, and generally have policies and ideas I fully support.

So the less-than-superficial question I have is... do "inspiring" words matter? Do they have a real impact on people's lives? If Obama became President, would his speeches become a positive force in America in a real way, or would it be just so much frosting on stale cake?

I'd love to know what you think.


Mac said...

Aren't words functionally actions when uttered by the President of the United States? How else does a President build popuar support for a policy other than by making speeches about it? I don't understand what point Clinton is trying to make on this particular issue.

Matthew said...

After 8 years of the most inarticulate, English-botching President in my lifetime, I am starving for inspirational, erudite language from the White House. It is a significant reason I lean toward Barak.

Danielle Wilson said...

wait. a playwright is asking if words matter?

Freeman said...

Good point, Danielle.


Anonymous said...

I would never vote for Clinton. Two words for you: Nancy Pelosi. How about: John Kerry? The lengthy track record of the democratic party being nothing more than a less-effective version of the republican party needs to end. The left wing of the dems are not going to buy the usual DNC corporatist committee-speak vomited forth by a female John Kerry.

I'm certainly not going to vote for the lessor of two evils this time. Yeah, a republican will probably do horrendous damage to the nation. But it will be a quick fall from which we can make REAL change. Another DNC candidate winning office would only slow the slide, frustrate any meaningful change and further co-opt the dem platform.

Will Obama be any different? Well, at least he's SAYING the right things. He seems to keep the pandering to a minimum. I'd prefer a real progressive but I think Obama deserves a try. If he's telling the truth about half of his rhetoric he will be a great President.

Hillary? Well. What she says depends on her audience and poll numbers. That combined with a tepid to horrendous voting record sinks her as a real progressive candidate. She does remind me of Thatcher a little bit though. Not in a good way.