Thursday, March 5, 2009

Casablanca complex

A recent article in the nytimes has me thinking about the role of the letter in our society.

Apparently, Obama used a hand-delivered letter to open communication with Medvedev in Moscow over the conflict-prone missile defense system. Awesome. Not only should we be talking with Russia and trying to foster a mutual friendships — I may be bias here, having visited and loved the country over the summer — but the protocol involved ignites the more romantic side of imagination.

Why use a letter? The most probable reason was probably to cover Obama's "paper trail" — of course, I use paper metaphorically here — which could have made the letter much easier to find and traceable. However, I'm more intrigued by the aethetic element of his move.

Today, letters have a distinctly film-noir feeling. I'm flooded by images of the iconic dark streetcorner, a man in a wet, brown trenchcoat leaning against a lamp post that casts an eerie cone of light just obscuring his face.

A second figure approaches. The first reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out a letter, passed in a fluidly nonchalant movement. A shared nod.

The romantic idea of old-time diplomacy fascinates — three-piece suits, fedoras, long rain coats, the warm, full sound of significant footsteps. It's all a black-and-white film for me. So it goes without saying that for a high-tech president like Obama, I'm just astounded by this low-tech, vaguely romantic idea of deplomacy.

No comments: