Imagining the “reckoning”

In Obama’s speech yesterday he mentions the “day of reckoning.” He says it only once in the sentence: “Well that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here.” after mentioning “we have lived through an era where too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; … Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn’t afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.”

boschThe idea, which William Kristol finds “little ominous coming from a candidate of hope and change” is remarkably effective in capturing media attention, and maybe the public’s imagination. All news media used the sentence to summarize the speech – check google news search.

The question for me is why does it seize the imagination? In my mind it calls up an image, Bosch’s horrid paintings of confused nakedness and deformity. But what do western media see when it is conjured? Surely the staging of a trial, also the dividing of the world between saints and sinners? The news articles don’t help, some show a thoughtful Obama, others a solemn Obama, yet others show him playful. Maybe it calls no image, but primes you to a sense of justice, righteousness and comfort in the knowledge that someone above the fray will separate the angels from the sinners, and make the world intelligible again.