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I’m Not Among the Faithful

Here’s a letter that I sent yesterday to the L.A. Times:

Maxwell Kennedy, son of Robert, justifiably objects to the L.A.P.D.’s ghoulish public display of his father’s blood-stained clothes (“Personal effects,” March 4).  But there’s another public display that I find even more objectionable.  It’s one that, alas, occurs all too often, and an instance of it is revealed in the photograph that accompanies Mr. Kennedy’s op-ed.

In that photo, the young and handsome Bobby Kennedy is standing upright in a roofless car, arms outstretched much like Jesus’s arms are outstretched in countless Christian images.  A sea of hands from both sides of the slowly moving car reaches out to touch Mr. Kennedy’s hands.

Too many politicians, then and now, display themselves as secular messiahs – as transcendent saviors possessing unique insight into the human condition, unparalleled devotion to all that is right and just, and superhuman powers to rescue humanity from the trials and tribulations of reality.

And too many people fall for these charades.

Donald J. Boudreaux

After reading this letter, my friend David Hart sent to me this welcome correction:

I think you describe only half the problem. There is a market for would-be saviour politicians and self-serving [politicians] like the Kennedy’s are only too willing to satisfy this need. The demand side is that there are millions of people who actively want such politicians to save them. We will not have victory until enough people voluntarily reject this notion and turn their backs on all politicians for good. I find the thought of hundreds of people lining up to touch a politician even more repulsive than the politician receiving the touches.