President Obama’s remarkable dispassion

In the blink of an eye, we flit from the unflinching courage of a young man facing a most savage death to the trivial pursuits of a mindless voyeur. The brain absorbs and files these images, where? Are they different, or do we perceive them as more or less equal — titillations not dissimilar to what we observe in any random R-rated movie or video game? Sex and violence are the horse and carriage of modern culture.

It isn’t just the media that cause these passive psychic blendings of the obscene and the absurd. Public servants — officials, leaders and presidents — do it, too. We’re all fluent in the language foretold by George Orwell, where messages are designed to be vague or meaningless, the better to inoculate the people against thought or understanding.

But actions do speak louder than words. This is why so many found it jarring that President Obama blandly condemned the beheading of American journalist James Foley just minutes before hopping into a golf cart. Message: Beheading bad; golf good. If your mind doesn’t spin, then the spin must be working.