It was an old man’s delivery, but overstatedly so for effect. It was a cutting delivery and for that reason delivered in low key. But for all of Clint Eastwood’s rhetorical cleverness at the Republican Convention, the speech derived its effectiveness precisely because it wasn’t one of those “I take this platform tonight with pen in hand, bearing in mind the immortal words of Clancy M. Duckworth” type orations. It wasn’t the speech of someone who was running for office.
Rather it might have come from Mr. Weller down at the corner office musing on simple things to not very important people. How it wasn’t good form to mess things up continuously. How one might lose faith in a man who made one broken promise too many. How at the end of the day everyone either did the job or quit out of decency. Even presidents.
There was no malice in it. Just a tone of regret. But it was redolent of memory too. Of simple things a world away from the Mountaintop, of sentiments a light-year from dramatic arcs, and of ordinary happiness in a universe apart from grand bargains and high-flown rhetorical visions. They were truths that everyone who has ever worked knows but has somehow forgotten because they were so ordinary.
But they were never known to those who had never worked a real job in their lives. And that is the wonder. That they never knew them. Thus the speech was at once us versus them; it was the check in the mail against the certainties of the heart. Every true challenge is built on the bricks of memory. And there were as many challenges in the Eastwood speech as the stones we stand on. For how did the lines in the movie go, even if they weren’t the real lines?
Do you think this is the end now, Mr. Frodo?
No Sam. It is not the end. We are safe, Sam. For I can remember the taste of strawberries again. The smell of new-mown hay and the beer at the Green Dragon at evening time. Remember, that whatever happens that the shadow is only a passing thing. There is truth and high beauty forever beyond its power to reach.
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