Let America Be America Again
Has the oaf from Porlock shoved off to Savile Row?
— Peter Carey, My Life as a Fake
So much has now been written about Barack Obama, and from so many different points of view, that one must scour the muniments of the improbable, the miraculous, or the impossible to find something startlingly new to say. Who knows? Perhaps it will one day be confirmed that Obama is really the second coming of the long-awaited messiah who brings a new world order with him, or a galactic visitor from a remote planet in another solar system, blessed with a wisdom beyond the capacity of ordinary human beings. Or perhaps he is Beelzebub's latest avatar, as prophesied, let's say, in a recently discovered scroll in a cave near Tel Miqne in the Holy Land.
But the truth is something far humbler and yet no less unnerving. It's not easy to draw a bead on a cynical shape-shifter like Obama, but the effort must be made. Whatever his mysterious origins may be -- numinous, demonic, interstellar, Hawaiian, Kenyan -- the fact remains that he is bad news for the future health and prosperity of the United States, which seems to be subsiding into the economic and political abyss.
I will attempt here only a modest summation of certain elements of disquietude that Obama's presidency has provoked. Nothing new, just a synoptic refresher, a compendium of reported items, which may help us to put things in perspective and justify the edginess that many of us feel. For it's high time we take Lear's command to heart and see the man for who he is, and in the round: "Off, off, you lendings! Come unbutton here." And there are lots of buttons to be popped:
- the disclosure of Obama's problematic affiliations with unrepentant former terrorist Bill Ayers, American-and-Jew bashing pastor Jeremiah Wright, and corrupt real estate developer Tony Rezko, as well as his imbibing of community organizer and social agitator Saul Alinsky's revolutionary manual, Rules for Radicals;
- the sealed university records. Why has Obama refused to make them public? What has he got to hide?
- the massive bailout scheme, inflationary deficit spending, and gargantuan expansion of the national debt, rising to a whopping proportion of GDP -- actually, to half and possibly more of the entire U.S. budget -- as well as the cap-and-trade program, which augurs monetary disaster in the coming years, notwithstanding any short-term stimulus jolt. In the long term, this fiscal package amounts to borrowing from America's unborn children;
- the cramdown policy of "trading off" the assets of troubled firms such as Chrysler, in effect making his campaign-funding United Auto Workers union a majority shareholder and leaving first-lien bondholders largely unsecured;
- the reluctance to develop American oil and natural gas reserves and the related binding of American entrepreneurship to green energy initiatives, which are both grossly inefficient and prohibitively costly;
- the stated intention to "spread the wealth around" which elevates the principle of equality over the principle of freedom, a maneuver that historically has led to a level of drab and phlegmatic sameness among the masses governed by a small, privileged managerial elite. Aristotle had it pegged long ago when he wrote in Book V, Chapter 8 of The Politics, "In democracies the rich ought to be treated with consideration; there should be no levy on capital with redistribution of property, nor any redistribution of income, such as goes unnoticed in some cities." When it comes, however, to preserving their own substantial wealth, Aristotle's advice has certainly been accepted by the plutocratic cohort of America's leading "socialists," including the president, which tends to go unnoticed in some cities -- though this is not exactly what the great philosopher had in mind;
- the apology to the world at large for American unilateralism rather than the assertion of legitimate pride in the historic ventures of a great nation -- the savior of Europe, the largest contributor to the United Nations, the protector of commercial sea lanes, the international benefactor of last resort, and, up to now, the world's mainstay against totalitarianism;
- the apology to the Islamic world for America's past sins -- the same America that rescued Kuwait from Saddam Hussein's aggression, intervened militarily on behalf of Bosnia-Herzegovina, did more than any other country to help establish Kosovo as an Islamic state, sends $2 billion annually in foreign aid to Egypt and hundreds of millions to Jordan, and contributes massively to Palestinian coffers and militia training;
- the offer to treat with Taliban "moderates" in Afghanistan when there is no such thing as a Taliban "moderate";
- the proposed reduction in American military spending, impacting the navy and the air force in particular, at precisely the time that China is vying to become the world's major naval power and Russia is buzzing our coasts and landing state-of-the-art bombers in Venezuela;
- the lack of interest in missile shield development and EMP defense in an increasingly perilous and incendiary world;
- the soft, deer-nosed approach to a rapidly nuclearizing Iran, which will change the geopolitical game dramatically, putting not only Israel but Europe and America at risk;
- the cozying up to some of the world's most unreconstructed tyrants, epitomized by his deep bow to Saudi King Abdullah and smiley handshake with Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez;
- the entirely unprecedented, on-again, off-again, seemingly on-again threat to arraign Bush administration advisors in what we might call the Waterboardingate affair, a move that can only weaken America's resolve to prevent further terrorist attacks on its soil;
- the resurrecting of the failed Middle East policies of his predecessors, which will lead to increased havoc in the region and to a dangerous gamble with Israeli security;
- the proposal to resettle Guantanamo detainees, many of them hard-core terrorists and self-declared recidivists, into American towns and cities -- this is Desperate Housewives with a vengeance;
- the catapulting of a veritable horde of swindlers, charlatans, and incompetents into responsible government positions, several of whom have thought it prudent to resign their candidatures before the prospect of rejection or embarrassment. But a government of the ethically challenged and intellectually dubious is starting to take definitive shape. (The reader will have no trouble supplying names.);
- the evident scrapping of the promised bipartisan approach toward the conduct of Congressional business, leading to a growing polarization in the affairs of state;
- the striking absence of presidential dignity, laughing at tasteless jokes (Wanda Sykes) and participating in offensive comedy routines (Jay Leno), an indecorous and supercilious attitude that goes hand in hand with the new tone of presidential arrogance in the response to criticism, which smacks of adolescent chip-on-the-shoulderism. "I won";
- among innumerable instances of poor judgment, the photo-op overflight of New York City, creating mass panic;
- the proposed offer of amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants, the deleterious effect of which on American labor, budgetary resources, and voting patterns may be irreversible;
- the apparent partiality toward international juridical institutions taking precedence over aspects of the American Constitution;
- the collectivist turn in American public, economic, and political life advanced by the president and his party, what de Tocqueville in Democracy in America called "administrative despotism," a power that "compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people." Based on a European socialist model which gives every indication of faltering, it presages higher rates of unemployment, rising taxes, citizen estrangement, and the diminution of technological and industrial innovation.
And the beat, as they say, goes on. Indeed, the ledger is peppered with such disturbing instances, with new disclosures emerging by the day -- though they seem to have had little effect as yet on the condition of political narcolepsy that, by all appearances, afflicts the majority of American voters, as well as a press corps deferential to the point of slavishness.
To paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr., I have a nightmare. I sense that the political and electoral temper of America has been "revolutionized" and that millions of young, poorly educated but successfully indoctrinated Americans may bring their country to its knees. I suspect their efforts will be abetted by the approximately 40% of Americans who do not pay taxes, living off the rapidly melting fat of the land. And I'm afraid the situation will get worse before it starts to get even worser -- at least for the next several years. The best we can anticipate is an unlooked-for series of events that may bring "hope and change," given a different acceptation from the original resonance of the phrase.
We can hope against hope, for example, that a sufficient number of Americans will rethink themselves and rally to ensure that Obama, like the lamentable Jimmy Carter before him, will prove to be a one-term president.
And yet one term may be enough for Obama to remake and subvert the country so profoundly -- recall his campaign countdown that "we are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America" -- that it may not be able to recover, or at any rate not in our lifetimes. Despite his soaring approval rating and the media's starry-eyed love affair with their mesmerizing paramour, it must be said that almost everything Obama does is either actually or potentially destructive.
At this point in my argument, some may ask what right or "authority" have I, a Canadian, to meddle in American affairs? True, I speak as a Canadian and not as an American, but as a Canadian who knows that whatever adversities happen to America ultimately happen to Canada. Little dogs pee where big dogs poo. Now that America has elected Obama, Canada is preparing to embrace as its next prime minister the vapid and preening Michael Ignatieff, who has spent 34 years pursuing his professional career outside the country, mainly in the U.S. Ignatieff arranged to have a photo of himself standing beside Obama projected to Times Square and the Las Vegas Strip.
The conclusion, I believe, is inescapable. Obama is bad for America. And what's bad for America is bad for the world. Perhaps all we can do for the present is to stay alert and informed, join tea parties, vote differently, write adversarially, revive the skeptical bone, and refuse to provide psychic hospitality to a presidential interloper, even if he is the darling of the West.
And one more thing. Adjusting for the difference in the times, we can reread one of America's great poets, Langston Hughes, who said it best in his book of that title: Let America Be America Again.