History in the unmaking
By Joseph Randolph
I did not watch the inauguration of America's new president last Tuesday. My university sent an email to all that a very comfortable and spacious room on campus would be equipped for viewers to sit spellbound before the inauguration, presumably between classes and work times. Eight years previous there had been no such invitation. In fact, eight years previous was one of the gloomiest days on campus that I can remember. Part of the reason I absented myself from the alluring room on the truly momentous day last Tuesday was my unwillingness to stomach the stylized ornament and fawning commentary I suspected would drape the event. The next day I judged that I was right as I read in the New York Times that "Mr. Obama's ascendance was so historic that the address became larger than its own language, more imbued with meaning than anything he could say." This dreamy and dripping description of metaphysical moment presumed so transcendent as to excuse some bald parts of the new president's speech I found annoying. However, now I feared I would become even more recalcitrant to watch this president and his adoring press in the future: would the fawning media have a safety net ready and under him for any fall he might take: large or small? My greater fear, however, is that the man, the newly elected president, may know as little about the world as a community organizer.
What does the new president know about the world? Of course defenders of the new president talk about the world he comes from as making him a man of the world. He certainly courted that image when he visited his European allies during his campaign; while he was unmistakably an American, he was equally a citizen of the world and told the enraptured Europeans so. Also in the Times on the day after the inauguration, Jodi Cantor wrote that "The family that produced Barack and Michelle Obama is black and white and Asian, Christian, Muslim and Jewish. They speak English; Indonesian; French; Cantonese; German; Hebrew; African languages including Swahili, Luo and Igbo; and even a few phrases of Gullah, the Creole dialect of the South Carolina Lowcountry. Very few are wealthy, and some — like Sarah Obama, the stepgrandmother who only recently got electricity and running water in her metal-roofed shack — are quite poor."
One hardly knows where to begin to needle such a boast. Being in the academy, I shall nevertheless start by saying that the overwhelming number of academics in this overwhelming leftist institution of today see in this president precisely what they have yearned for for agonizing decades—even William Jefferson Clinton and his tribe cannot compare to the extended Barack Obama. Barack and Michelle Obama bring to the office of president of the United States the heraldry of multiculturalism and veneration of the poor, for they belong to both. The Times writer and multitudes of academics worship at the mere whisper of these ideas, and therefore inch toward worship of the person who embodies them. There is one fact to keep in mind, however. As a voting group defined by profession, American professors probably had the most overwhelming majority vote for Obama compared to ineffectual opponent McCain. They in all likelihood voted for Obama by greater percentage than did the geographic island known as the District of Columbia, excepting perhaps "mainstream" journalists. No multivoting culture amongst the multicultural crowd.
I have heard it said with humorous intention that the damage that professors and politicians can do to the public is guarded and minimized by their small numbers, and so too by quartering them off into ivory towers and halls and palaces of government. In other words, they are kept some safe distance from the real world—which is more or less the rest of us—which serves as protection for us against them. So far, so good, if one is essentially a Lockean or a political libertarian of sorts. That is, if the purpose of government is to protect and defend its citizens and their property, but the greatest threat sometimes paradoxically comes from the institutions and persons charged with that protection, due to the inherent power such persons and institutions carry, one needs to be careful they do not extend themselves too far and thus undermine the very thing they are charged with protecting.
Therefore, this is precisely the most possibly damaging political news from this president so far as he enters office. Leftist academics love him, because they share his view about government, but he is on the ground of the real world amongst real people, whereas they live behind the lectern and in front of their computer and get on the television and radio once in a while. They teach and preach; he practices. He is the practical bearer and advancer of their ideas. They have never had quite this much before in any president: not Wilson, not even Roosevelt, not Carter, and not Clinton.
My detour has not been without purpose; so now let us return to my belated worry; what does our new president know about the world? It is an awkward question, for he, like his ideologues in the academy for the past few decades, is more concerned with changing it. He, like more and more of them, seems to know little about his own country; and worse he holds whole pages of its history in contempt, and not just the period of slavery in America. He is like the great mass of leftist politicians whose care for the people is largely for purposes of social engineering. Their historical preference for change in the form of revolutions—violence politely removed because they are averse toward it—will be for the French version, rather than the American version. Our new president I would venture scarcely knows the ideological difference between the two, but second, no American politician will let slip in public that equality and fraternity are principles more fundamental than freedom. To see this unspoken belief, however, watch their actions; watch the leftist experiments on we the people—equality is their bulldozer and their rudder. The point, after all, and to quote their favorite philosopher, is not to understand the world, but to change it. There is, therefore, and despite admirably high IQ's among some of them, a gross lack of logic dogging them. Maybe that is why so many of their heroes have wreaked so much havoc on a world that scarcely understood as they set about to change it.
Joseph Randolph is a writer and academic who lives in Wisconsin.