That was my conclusion after hearing Virginia Postrel discuss her new book, The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion, and then reading it. It's a fascinating book -- and an attractive one, with dozens of photos.
I heard her speak Monday at the John Locke Foundation, a conservative think tank here in Raleigh -- just down the street from the Civitas Institute, where I work.
I confess I had envisioned her as sort of an ominous, Ayn Randish sort, but she was cheerful and energetic and upbeat.
For glamour is misunderstood, and underestimated. Yes, there is something deceptive about it. The word itself means an illusion or hallucination. Glamour is not reality, but a vision that stirs in us yearning and desire for a better world. Yet if it is not truth, it may inspire us to bolder, better visions of life, though we never will attain fully those visions.
We think of glamorous movie stars. But glamour can also be seen in the exploits of soldiers -- or the piety of nuns. And even in terrorists. We see it in horse riders, and aircraft, and striding women, and images of the future.
She points out that politicians are seldom glamorous. Glamour requires distance and mystery; democratic politicians, anyway, must press the flesh, must explain too much, must appear too often and without control of their images. And of course once in office, glamour is replaced by gritty reality and the disappointments of fact.
John Kennedy, of course, was the epitome of glamour. Whether that glamour could have survived into a second term is, of course, a question that can't be answered.
There are exceptions: There are politicians who are so reserved, so insulated, that they retain their glamour even if office. Reagan is one such, she suggested; Obama may be another.
|President and Mrs. Obama on visit to Africa.|
Note also that there are glamorous ideas. Take again JFK: Many of his signature programs were glamorous. We respond to them with a yearning for a better, different world or way of life: Landing a man on the moon, the Peace Corps, even the Green Berets.
Postrel's talk suggested that what we conservatives need is at least a dose of that. We do need to touch people's deepest longings, and move people to use those impulses to create something more. We do need to conjure up a better world; we do need to rouse people; we do need to offer them something better.