Obama’s choice

Vanity Fair shares some of the revelations from Barack Obama’s youthful love life. Nothing here that would interest National Inquirer, but this caught my attention from the recollections of Alex McNear, a young woman from Occidental College, California, who had enchanted the 20-year-old Obama:

Obama was obsessed with the concept of choice, she said. Did he have real choices in his life? Did he have free will? How much were his choices circumscribed by his background, his childhood, his socio-economic situation, the color of his skin, the expectations that others had of him? How did choice influence his pres­ent and future? Later, referring back to that discussion, he told Alex in a letter that he had used the word “choice” “as a convenient shorthand for the way my past resolves itself. Not just my past, but the past of my ancestors, the planet, the universe.” His obsession with the concept of choice, he said in a later interview at the White House, “was a deliberate effort on my part to press the pause button, essentially, and try to orient myself and say, ‘Okay, which way, where am I going?’ ”

Prior to his election, a philosophically inclined president sounded, at least to some of us, like a good idea — especially when contrasted against a president who expressed such disdain for the intellect. But in place of The Decider, we ended up with a president who perpetually maneuvers in accordance with the dictates of circumstance.

Free will might be an illusion, but if so, it’s an illusion I would prefer a president to believe in.

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