"Meaningful" was a vogue word circa 1970s. Back when people were acting as if sex outside of marriage was new idea and "pre-marital sex" seemed to be missing the point, the term "meaningful relationships" had its day. That faded over time. I'm not sure exactly how or when. It wasn't just sex but also politics that were supposed to be meaningful. One imagined wellsprings of inner satisfaction opening up. It was almost even religious. Or not religious, but spiritual. A rabbi wrote a book called "The Politics of Meaning." It turned Hillary Clinton on and made Michael Kelly write a NYT article titled "Saint Hillary."
Driven by the increasingly common view that something is terribly awry with modern life, Mrs. Clinton is searching for not merely programmatic answers but for The Answer. Something in the Meaning of It All line, something that would inform everything from her imminent and all-encompassing health care proposal to ways in which the state might encourage parents not to let their children wander all hours of the night in shopping malls.That was written in 1993. (Michael Kelly died in 2003, in service as an embedded journalist in Iraq.) In 2008, Jonah Goldberg published a book called "Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning." In 2010, we got our all-encompassing health care, not from Saint Hillary, but from Saint Barack. We called it Obamacare, because Obama cares, cares about meaning, regardless of the politics.
Barack Obama has written 2 books. The word "meaningful" appears once in "Dreams from My Father" ("meaningful time frame") and 7 times in "The Audacity of Hope":
1. "[W]hat binds us together is greater than what drives us apart, and that if enough people believe in the truth of that proposition and act on it, then we might not solve every problem, but we can get something meaningful done."What meaning is contained in "meaningful" for Barack Obama, specifically, and for all of us?
2. "I have criticized the [Bush] Administration for lacking a meaningful health-care agenda...."
3. "[T]he standards and principles that the majority of Americans deem important in their lives, and in the life of the country—should be the heart of our politics, the cornerstone of any meaningful debate about budgets and projects, regulations and policies."
4. "[W]e already have hard evidence of [school] reforms that work... meaningful, performance-based assessments that can provide a fuller picture of how a student is doing...."
5. "[A lesbian] knew when she decided to support me that I was opposed to same-sex marriage, and she had heard me argue that, in the absence of any meaningful consensus, the heightened focus on marriage was a distraction from other, attainable measures to prevent discrimination against gays and lesbians."
6. "[W]here there’s strong evidence of prolonged and systematic discrimination by large corporations, trade unions, or branches of municipal government, goals and timetables for minority hiring may be the only meaningful remedy available."
7. "I wanted to call [an immigration activist group] and explain that American citizenship is a privilege and not a right; that without meaningful borders and respect for the law, the very things that brought them to America... would surely erode...."
Something terrible has happened. Children were killed, seemingly senselessly. We are bereft of meaning. The President deems it meaningful to speak, to offer us meaning, not for why that happened, but in the future. An action has horrified us, an action in the past, which we cannot change. But in the future, actions can be taken. We can do something there in that place of hope. So meaning, meaning... where is meaning? Put it in the future, where the action is. Meaningful action.
There, now. Are you salved? Are you saved? Is there meaning?