Friedrich Nietzsche, that great sage of despair, asked, “What if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it …?'” Nietzsche called this idea of eternal recurrence “the heaviest weight.”
In the wake of the slaughter in Orlando, Florida, where 49 people were killed and even more injured during an attack early Sunday on a gay nightclub, it seems many are all too eager to carry a similar load. As soon as news broke, pundits and politicians returned to dog-eared scripts to repeat lines memorized long ago.
President Obama, who has spent his presidency yearning for the reality he wants rather than the one he has, once again downplayed any suggestion that this was another battle in the war on Islamic terror he does not want to fight.
“Over the coming days, we’ll uncover why and how this happened,” the president promised, referring to a killer who called 911 to proclaim his allegiance to the Islamic State and shouted “Allahu Akbar!” amidst the mayhem.
Obama conceded that it was an “act of terror,” but as John Podhoretz noted in the New York Post, referring to “terror” without a modifier is like a doctor discussing “cancer” without identifying its specific form or location; it is a way of talking around the problem without addressing it.
(For her part, presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, in her initial wilted-word-salad response, said she was perfectly “happy” to call it “radical Islamism.” Beyond that, she offered little beyond staying the course in her desired third Obama term.)
Obama’s tentativeness gave way to conviction when he spoke of how “we need the strength and courage to change” our attitudes toward gays and lesbians. And conviction gave way to certainty when he tried to turn this attack into one more example in his brief for gun control.
In this reflexive retreat to rote thinking, the president was truly a representative if not of the American people then at least of much of the media and the political class.