Summary: Obama’s statement about America may be the simple truth; this may be why so many find it disturbing.
Many Americans prefer that our leaders lie to us, and find moments of candor unseemly — an when Jimmy Carter said that he “lusted in his heart“. Hence the controversy over this statement:
America is no longer, what it could be, what it once was. And I say to myself, I don’t want that future for my children.
— Barack Obama, 6 August 2008 — see the video here.
This is typical of the criticism from conservatives, both misrepresenting what Obama said and disagreeing with it on several levels.
A little girl asks you a question, “Why did you start running for President?” It’s a 7 year old Senator. Ya tell her because you love the country. You tell her because this is the greatest place on Earth. That we’ve got challenges, but you want to help the country through it.
You don’t tell a 7 year old that her country isn’t what it once was. You do not lie to 7 year olds and tell them that your country sucks. You just don’t do it Senator. America’s no longer what it could be? What it once was? How the Hell would you know Sir? Your experience has only been in one part of America. Elite, leftist academia.
— Rush Limbaugh, 7 August 2008 — see the video here.
Obama is not only correct, I believe, but addresses the most important question of this time, frequently discussed on this site: what is the path to American renewal? His rhetoric about us, about America, points to reflection on our what we have inherited from our parents and what we will pass on to our children.
Policy wonks recoil in horror at this, believing that their long policy papers contain the solutions to America’s problems. Just as have generations of wonks since the nation project went off the rails when confronted with the twin challenges of the Great Depression and the fascist powers.
In fact, Obama states the matter too charitably. The starting point for renewal is not just reflection. Profound contempt is necessary, a nausea with what we have become — esp. by comparison with what we were and should be. Only from there will effective collective action and political programs become possible.
Hence the two previous posts in this series about America, giving bits of evidence why Limbaugh’s self-satisfaction is undeserved.
We are wolves on the world stage, boldly invading 3rd world nations — but sheep at home, cowering before our government. Our President begs Saudi Arabia to pump more cheap oil for us. Our senior officials plead with China to not only rollover our loans (which we cannot pay) but also lend us more so that we can continue to consume more than our national income.
We elect leaders with vast ambitions (foreign wars for McCain, domestic fountains of spending for Obama), but we cannot afford them — and they make few serious attempts to explain how they will be financed. Instead we have the choice of basking in the reflected glory of McCain’s years as a POW or Obama’s charisma.
I believe that most of us know the dark truth, in one way or another: America is metastable. In addition to geopolitical weakness, the result of decades of unsound grand strategy, the economic foundation of the American hegemony has large cracks. We have a pseudo-equilibrium, vulnerable to a tiny shock initiating a sudden and radical change — with the end result a truly stable condition (such as I described here and here). America is like a “hanging rock” – a small push can move it to lower but firmer foundation.
Our situation is contemptible because it is unnecessary. Somewhere along the way we passed a tipping point, after which absurd and even irrational behavior by our governing elites was accepted without outrage. Massive government borrowing, Ruby Ridge and Waco, the insanity of airport security .. the list goes on and on. We greet each new indignity or foolishness with shrugs.
We can do better, as we need not accept such things. When the crunch comes, I believe we will do better. The longer we wait, the greater the rot, the more extensive the damage, and the more difficult will be our recovery.
The November elections might be the most important of the century. Get involved. Donate your time and money. We might be unable to image what America will look like in 2012.
Please share your comments by posting below (brief and relevant, please), or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).
Other posts in this series about America, how we got here and how we can recover it
- Forecast: Death of the American Constitution, 4 July 2006
- Diagnosing the Eagle, Chapter III – reclaiming the Constitution, 3 January 2008
- A report card for the Republic: are we still capable of self-government?, 3 July 2008
- Americans, now a subservient people (listen to the Founders sigh in disappointment), 20 July 2008
- de Tocqueville warns us not to become weak and servile, 21 July 2008
- A soft despotism for America?, 22 July 2008
- Obama describes the first step to America’s renewal, 8 August 2008
- Let’s look at America in the mirror, the first step to reform, 14 August 2008
- Fixing America: elections, revolt, or passivity?, 16 August 2008
- Fixing American: taking responsibility is the first step, 17 August 2008
- Fixing America: solutions — elections, revolt, passivity, 18 August 2008
- The intelligentsia takes easy steps to abandoning America, 19 August 2008
For all posts on this subject see America – how can we reform it?.