McKeever on McParland on Conservatives on Obama

September 8, 2009 by  

2009-09-08.barack-jesusThe National Post is one of Canada’s two national newspapers. The “Full Comment” blog of the online component offers some good reading material. It is edited by Kelly McParland, a seasoned journalist.

Prompted by an AFP report about American conservatives criticizing a speech that Barack Obama will be giving to school children, McParland today writes that, if conservatives can condemn Obama’s remarks as socialism, it is no wonder they cannot embrace socialist health care. The essence of McParland’s submission is that Obama’s speech just tells kids to work hard and do well in school, so conservatives who criticize the speech are holding back things like socialist health care because they see practically anything as a socialist plot.

From the outset, let me respond to McParland by stating the obvious: socialist health care is…socialist. Saying so is not an admission of paranoia on the part of conservatives, but denying so is certainly an admission that one is detached from the facts of reality.

Turning now to what I can only wish was equally obvious: clouding the issue of how to judge McParland’s condemnation of the conservatives is the fact that the conservatives quoted in the AFP article are as off-base as McParland. The conservatives are right to condemn Obama’s speech, but their rationale makes them worthy of condemnation. There are indeed at least two major problems with Obama’s speech, but neither of them were identified by the conservatives quoted in the AFP piece.

First: the President of the United States is the chief law enforcer. He is not principally a legislator (those folks are found in the House of Representatives and in the Senate), but the head of the Executive branch of government. Psychologically, to children, he is akin to a pope, a dictator, or a parent. Obama knows it, which is why he plans to say the following sorts of things with a straight face:

They chose to take responsibility for their education and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same.
Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.

In a country where individuals are free, what the president expects or wants from a child, in terms of taking “responsibility for their education” or in terms of the goals they set for themselves, is completely irrelevant. In such a country, a president focuses on ensuring that no person obtains any other person’s values without consent. He keeps the peace. He plays not the role of parent, or religious leader, or dictator, but of referee or cop. In a country populated by free individuals, the president – as president – has no authority to concern himself, officially, with whether you become extremely well-educated, or remain an illiterate; with whether you become a billionaire or a person earning minimum wage; with whether you choose to live or to die. The president’s only role, in telling you what he expects or wants, is to tell you what rational (hence moral) laws expect of the governed: that you must not obtain anything from another human being without the consent of that human being and that, if you try to obtain something from a human being without their consent, the result will be the unyielding use of force, against you, by the state.

In other words, the president is not daddy. He is aimer-in-chief of a loaded gun. And, in his official capacity as president of the United States of America, Obama should limit the expression of his expectations and wants to those which tell the governed (a) how to ensure that one does not find oneself on the receiving end of that gun, and (b) that the gun will be used to defend their lives, liberty, and property.

Obama’s speech implicitly tells the children to whom he is speaking (i.e., ultimately, all children in the USA) the opposite: that he is not merely a cop in their service, but a daddy who has personal expectations and wants – about things having nothing to do with rational governance – and to whom the children owe a duty of respect and obedience in respect of the satisfaction of those presidential expectations and wants. Whether he is trying to create a culture of children that want and expect a dictator is known only to him, but the effect of his words is to tell children, implicitly, that they should aim to honour and obey the expectations and wants of the president, whether or not they relate to legitimate functions of president in a country of free individuals.

Second: A country (or, to use the implicitly racist collectivist term “nation”) is, in essence, nothing more than a legal jurisdiction. A country, in any intellectually honest sense of the term, is not a collective entity comprised of individuals and/or the things they produce; it is not Leviathan. It is owed nothing, and it has nothing of its own to offer.

The money that makes governance possible is not the result of any collective effort; it is not the result of a government producing any wealth at all. The money that makes governance (and government) possible is the result of individuals producing wealth. And, when a government spends money, the only beneficiaries are: individuals (whether those individuals be producers, looters, or moochers). What, then, is the meaning of a statement such as the following?:

What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.

Answer: This statement implies that (a) a country is a thing capable of having challenges, and (b) that the listener should regard it as a personal responsibility to ensure that this challenge-facing thingy can meet its challenges. However, with respect to (a), countries do not face challenges: individual human beings do. That means that, with respect to (b), Obama really is just referring to false concepts instead of coming straight out and saying: “It’s your responsibility to make sure that your neighbour can meet his greatest challenges” or: “You are your brother’s keeper”.

Additional examples of Obama’s weasel-speak in that regard include:

We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.
…when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.
The story of America [is] about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.
So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? …What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?
So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud.

There is no country to quit on: there is only the possibility of quitting on the Obama-imposed duty to carry your neighbour’s load for him.

A country being nothing but a legal jurisdiction, the only way to give up on a country is by emigrating from it. The decision to be an uneducated, mooching drifter is not giving up on ones country. Being a well educated, productive and moral individual is not a commitment to ones country. Unless you are violating another person’s life, liberty or property, “giving up on oneself”, or not doing so, is an entirely personal matter.

The story of America is not about people who “loved their country too much to do anything less than their best”. That’s just a lie, as anyone who has read and understood the Declaration of Independence could tell you. Rather, America is the story of individuals who loved themselves – each individual loving his own life – and who knew that the successful pursuit of their own, personal happiness required each individual to do his best. America has not a heritage of “rugged collectivism” but of “rugged individualism”.

One does not make a “contribution to ones country”: again, such weasel speak is an obfuscatory way of saying “contribution of your effort, or of what you produce, to individuals other than yourself”. In the context in which Obama uses the word, “contribution” necessarily implies collectivism; it implies that one has a duty to be ones brother’s keeper by pitching something into a common pot of gruel stirred by none other than the president, who will then ration its out according to the president’s whim. And, in a country inhabited by free individuals: nobody gives a flying fig what some elected neighbour of theirs will say about them 25 years hence. That elected neighbour will know his place, and will offer no response when the governed tell him: “Shut up and defend my life, my liberty, and my property, as I’m paying you to do, servant”.

And, with respect to letting down ones country, you might glean my response from the above. There is no country to let down. There are only individuals who live within the same legal jurisdiction. And, if the individuals who live in the country are free, those individuals have no right to be expecting you – or any of the impressionable young children that Obama is attempting to brainwash – to hold them up in the first place.

Finally, a few words with respect to the conservatives, whose misguided criticism of Obama’s abusive speech undermines freedom even more than does Obama’s speech itself. AFP quotes Michael Leahy – who is said to be a spokesperson for a “Nationwide Tea Party Coalition” – as follows:

That’s Obama-centric. It’s not focused on education but on the worship of Barack Obama…This is indoctrination, pure and simple, into the cult of Barack Obama, and we are opposed to that

With respect to another conservative, AFP reports:

Jim Greer, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, raged that “Pied Piper Obama” was going “into the American classroom” to spread socialist ideology.

The conservatives are missing the point (again, and as usual). Obama’s words would be wrong if they were said by George Bush, or even by a school-teacher. There being an eight year term limit for Obama, and the children being years away from voting age, there would be no point in trying to draw them into a cult of Obama.

Rather, the issue is that Obama is preaching a fundamentally evil and anti-American philosophy. Metaphysically, he is teaching American children that they do not exist independently of others, but are part of a greater whole called a “country” or a “nation”. Epistemologically, the fact that he is strutting in and giving his list of expectations and wants in his capacity as president tells students that, to obtain knowledge of ethics and to live an ethical life, they must simply hear, accept and obey as dogma whatever list of expectations or wants some other person – especially a person elected by a majority of their needy neighbours – communicates to them. Ethically, he is teaching them that the satisfaction of ones neighbour’s needs and wants takes priority over the pursuit of ones own personal happiness. Politically, he is teaching them that the role of government – e.g., of the president – is to enforce that altruistic ethical code with express or implied threats of fines, imprisonment or death. And, psychologically, he is setting them up to feel paralysing guilt whenever they dare to believe that they exist independently of others, that they should think for themselves, that they should make the rational pursuit of their own happiness their highest purpose, or that it is not the role of government to use force to cause people to act altruistically.

By suggesting that the problem with Obama’s speech (or other elements of his education program) are wrong because they are designed to build support for the Obama cult, or for “liberalism”, the best that conservatives can hope to achieve is a rejection of Obama. The cost of their efforts, however, will be that – by failing to condemn the philosophy that Obama is preaching – they will have implied there is nothing wrong with it. The conservatives’ silence implies that – just as Obama says – we are all indeed part of a collective, that the president can know things that one cannot know for oneself, that one is – first and foremost – ones brother’s keeper, and that the purpose of government is to force everyone to sacrifice for one another, at the expense of personal happiness.

In short, Mr. McParland, it is not the case that the conservative is delusional or paranoid for believing that there is a red under his bed. There is. The real problem is that there is also a red sleeping on top of it.


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