In Ms. Smiley's novel, our heroine's sisters are talking about Marian, a cousin who's moved away to teach the children of freed slaves. Marian is, needless, to say an ardent abolitionist, and our heroine's sisters--who like to confine conversations to discussions of the goings on in their own backyards--find their cousin heavy going conversationally. Here's the passage.
I don't know why she brings these ideas into the family! You sit down to supper and there's ideas there; and then you get up in the morning and make the tea, and there's ideas again. It makes you feel all outside of yourself, looking out the door of your own house, that you look out of a hundred times a day, but there's ideas making it look all different. There's no comfort in it, I'll tell you that!"Yesterday, as I was intermittently listening to President Obama address the United Nations, I found myself thinking about Cousin Miriam, because it occurred to me that this president--just like cousin Marian--talks about ideas. And by talking about ideas, he's demanding that we think deeply about what he's saying instead of just reacting to it (as we could if he'd just lighten up and stick to talking points!)
Wow! What a lot of hard work President Obama expects us to do! Has he got a lot of nerve or what? There's no comfort in it, I'll tell you that!