Two days ago, Bob Dylan received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And once again we saw the tendency of American liberals to misunderstand a man who has refused to be enlisted in their causes.
President Obama remarked that “No one ever picks up a guitar, or fights a disease, or starts a movement, thinking: ‘You know what? If I keep this up, in 2012 I could get a medal in the White House from a guy named Barack Obama. That wasn’t in the plan. But that’s exactly what makes this award so special.”
Setting aside the odd narcissism of the president’s comment, we see in it yet another instance of liberalism’s long history of misunderstanding Bob Dylan.
Dylan’s work is not about the story of American liberalism. It is not about the Antiwar movement, Civil Rights, or—contra President Obama—the wonder of a black man leading a nation that has long struggled with race, worthy as all these things are. It is about man simpliciter and, often, about man standing before his God.
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