Adam Mansbach Analyzes Obama’s Toward a More Perfect Union

AdamMansbachIn addition to being a great novelist whom I will interview on my forthcoming podcast series, Adam Mansbach is my neighbor–or he would be if he didn’t keep popping off to other corners of the world with his amazing partner and fantastic child. However, one way to keep up with a writer is as a reader, and this essay makes up for a dozen great conversations (twice that with toddlers present). Check it out here.

Part autobiographical investigation, part sharp (as in accurate) analysis of the current state of race and racism in America, this piece is pleasurably articulate and concludes with a set of proposals I support, even if I cannot, as Adam guesses, quite fathom not only how the proposed townhall conversations would go but also what lasting impact they would have.

This is part of a larger skepticism I’ve identified in myself recently, one that is forcing me to look at examples of character change I’ve seen or experienced and to imagine what it would take to change the characters I know best. This brings us back to fiction, but to an element of fiction tied in closely with politics: the dictate that a character either change or face the opportunity to change and let it pass by.

Does this element require that we writers of fiction believe that people can change, or can be presented with real opportunities for change? I think it does. In truth, I know I’ve changed, but not all of those changes or even most of them reflect the kind of change I necessarily want to create in my imaginary worlds. There are many parts of being a writer that people complain about and lament, but the need to maintain an optimistic sense that people change frequently and significantly is not one I hear discussed. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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1 Comment

  1. Just a few random thoughts before I rush around to get ready for a visit from my sister….

    “Change” has many definitions. Personal change only happens when the individual wants to change badly enough to break through internal and external barriers to make it happen. Sometimes personal change is not that hard or challenged by so many obstacles. But the impetus is not, and cannot be, external or it will not happen.

    Then I also think about change in terms of broader social change. What does that consist of? Sometimes it springs from a change in institutional structure that does not even have social change as an objective.

    Women first got thrust in the workforce in large numbers in the U.S. during WWII and not because of a desire to address gender inequality but out of desperation to feed the burgeoning military industrial complex.

    But does not broad, long-lasting social change require exactly the kind of internal process that cannot easily be influenced by the outside? Should individuals interested in furthering social change focus on the ways structures can be changed and hope that people’s beliefs and actions ultimately follow? I don’t know.

    I haven’t finished reading the Mansbach excerpt but my favorite line so far is: “if only because white people will refuse to grapple with race unless they are allowed to centralize themselves.” Heh.

    I like the way Mansbach has deconstructed Obama’s speech on race so far but I’ll have to see where he takes it….interesting, definitely.


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