Bernie’s Magic Mirror
Copyright © by Len Holman, 3/29/16
Mirrors are passive. They reflect the Already There. They do not interpret nor do they editorialize; that’s all left for our minds to do. If it is at least partly true that the mind is a relevance-making machine, then after the mirror has done its job, the mind gets to work on what the reflection IS, what the reflection MEANS.
I saw Bernie Sanders give a speech in Seattle last week to a very large and boisterous crowd and was struck by what he was doing. He wasn’t just giving a speech, but holding up his magic mirror. Now, one could say that other candidates also hold mirrors, but they are not as magic as Bernie’s is—in fact, they are not magic at all. Their mirrors reflect themselves and they reflect their supporters. In those mirrors we see ourselves and our candidate as one entity, with the candidate having the main face, as our minds make excuses for what we perceive, no matter how repugnant or foolish or unfactual. But Bernie has a magic mirror; it’s a mirror which is extra-reality, extra-material, extra-practical. That is to say, his mirror transcends the bounds that one thinks of when “reality” or “practical” or “material” is mentioned. It is magic just because it doesn’t reflect the candidate or the listeners, but the “what if we could?” part of a brain. His mirror shows us a world that rarely exists, and then, only in part, and mostly in the imaginations of the children and dreamers of the world. His mirror shows us a world that could be, not one that is now. The mirror doesn’t want to hear about what is “realistic” or warring wives or socialism or American exceptionalism. His mirror shows us a people who CAN be, if we would only band together and WANT it.
Hillary Clinton’s mirror is an old one, filmed over with the smears and dust and crusted mist of every political campaign there ever was. We look into the mirror and see her and her past and her rhetorical figures, like finger marks on a frosted pane. She exhorts her listeners to vote her into the white house, but she rarely uses the third-person plural in any sincere way. It’s all about her and her mirror reflects that. Donald Trump uses his mirror to reflect only himself. Commentators are always speaking of his “tapping into” the anger of the jobless, the displaced, and the confused. But if they were to look—really look—into his mirror, they would not see the future; they would not even see themselves.
Whether he knows it or not, Bernie Sanders invokes a mythological Somewhere, a place where birds land on podiums, and the whole of the universe is alive; it is a place where humans share this magical realm. Sanders uses the third person plural in that magical sense, and his supporters feel it, understand it, and participate in it. One gets nothing of the feel of that magic from the few snippets seen on TV, but in a long sequence, Sanders begins to impart his spell. And it IS a spell, for why would those who just came for the “show” leave with a glaze of wonder and hope in their eyes? There is so much talk about the media missing the import of Trump’s rise, and so little of Sanders’ surge. After his last three wins, Bernie gave a ponderous, non-soaring speech about going on to other states, blah, blah. He didn’t bring his mirror; he was coasting; his supporters were resting from the rush of magic they imbibed from Bernie’s mirror. Does he have enough magic to overcome this “realistic” political world; does he have enough white magic to overcome the dark magic of “it can’t be done”?
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