Friday, January 28, 2011

Obama's State of the Union

A Story and A Point

Based on Walter Karp’s book Buried Alive

The story first:

“Once, on a radio discussion show, the moderator, vexed with me for ‘tearing down America,’ began delivering a long harangue about the horrors of dictatorship in Yugoslavia, a country he had recently visited. How then, he asked in conclusion, could anyone really criticize American politics when you compare our freedom with Tito’s repressions? That is the true internationalist voice of the nationist. He extols liberty in America by comparing it with despotism abroad. The republican, by contrast, compares liberty in America with one standard only, the one established in the principles and promise of the American republic itself. To the nationist, new-fashioned patriot of the twentieth century, American is always a nation among nations.”

From what I gather Obama, in his State of the Union address, compared the United States with, among other nations, China to show that we are lagging behind. That is, Obama did not compare the US to China to “extol” us but to criticize us, to show that we needed to “shut up and get to work.” [Obama of course used code for this latter phrase.]

Now, by doing this, notice how Obama mimicked or copied the moderator mentioned in Karp’s story, and also spoke as a “nationist” and not as a “republican.” [The small “r” is crucial here because even Republicans are “nationists.”]

And think about it: What questions disappear as a result of Obama’s argument? [One possibility: Distribution of wealth in this “republic.” Another possibility: The state of our political order today, ala’ the Tea Partiers’ concerns.] What questions become prominent? [One possibility: How to make sure that when more people go to college so they can compete in the “new” globalized world economy their education will be sufficiently vocational or useful.]

Generally speaking, is the rhetoric of our presidents “republican” in the sense of being focused on whether or to what extent “We the People” or our government are reaching those standards “established in the principles and promise of the American republic itself?” Or is it “nationist” in the sense that it directs our attention overseas and makes us think that our greatest challenge[s] are abroad, thereby blinding us to the challenges that confront our republic here at home?

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