Besides their ages, Philip Roth and Pope Benedict XVI would appear to have little in common. The mischievous, secular, and oft-profane Jewish-American literary provocateur and the sophisticated theologian, the staunchly traditional Bishop of Rome, seem cut from entirely different cloth. But each of these men recently made rather surprising announcements that were remarkably similar: They were retiring, stepping down and away from occupations that have historically been considered lifetime positions.
On Wednesday, President Obama did one of the most courageous things I have ever seen a president do; on the eve of a hotly contested election to be decided by a few swing states, he declared his personal support for gay marriage.
The image of the Etch A Sketch, with its interlocking resonances of writing and erasure, composition and blankness, is a plastic and aluminum (no, not sand) aperture into the consistently bedeviling problem of constancy in our politics.