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President Barack Obama’s inauguration for his second term was held on Martin Luther King’s birthday with Obama’s hand on King’s and President Lincoln’s Bibles. The event was tinged with grim irony.
Four years ago most Americans, no matter their party, could celebrate the election of a black American to the presidency. Obama's election showed that one’s race need not be a barrier to the highest aspirations. Yet today we witnessed the celebration of enslavement by those being enslaved.
Nature of liberation
To understand this sad spectacle let’s start with race. Dr. King rightly fought against laws that overtly discriminated against blacks. And he was fond of quoting the Declaration of Independence’s understanding that “all Men are created equal” and its vision that each individual is endowed “with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Let’s fill in here the unique vision of America, “That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.”
King also famously declared, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
In a free society that moral code would mean that we each strive for our own happiness and pursue our own dreams through our own individual efforts; that we each take responsibility for our own lives and actions; and that we accord our fellows equal rights to live their own lives, dealing with them based on mutual consent, and judging them based on who they are.
Since King’s times, most black leaders and white liberals have insisted that blacks be judged first and foremost as members of their racial group rather than by the extent to which they take charge of their own lives and take pride in their achievements as individuals. Worse, these leaders have encouraged blacks to think of themselves as helpless victims, as children entitled to special state-provided handouts and privileges.
The morality of irresponsibility created the pathologies of broken families, crime, and chronic poverty. This benefits only the race hustlers—touted by the liberal media—who require a dependent class to exploit, hustlers such as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Obama’s preacher Reverend Wright, and Rep. Maxine Waters.
Obama could have broken this pathology. In his second inaugural address he spoke of “Our celebration of initiative and enterprise, our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.” But these were empty, cynical words.
Rather than using the bully pulpit of his office to celebrate individual achievers, the theme of his administration has been to demonize them, as he did again in his inaugural address by declaring that “our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.” It’s tax time!
Obama has pushed the entitlement mindset as well as actual handouts into overdrive, for example, with more individuals on food stamps than ever. Blacks are more entrapped in the plantation of a soul-killing moral code than ever before.
Obama is in one true sense a president who has transcended race. He is foisting on all Americans, regardless of race, the morality of entitlement as well as the entitlements themselves that have created the pathologies that make so miserable the lives of many blacks. Obamacare is but the most notable example.
In his inaugural address Obama quoted the Declaration on the rights of individuals to our own lives, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. But he then distorted the meaning of those words by stating, for example, that “Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.” Not individuals caring for their own families and friends but the “nation”--that is, the collective as manifest in paternalist political elites.
Obama then turned truly Orwellian. He stated that “preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.” And that action was not based on voluntary cooperation but, rather, on government action and mandates.
We heard nothing in Obama’s speech about the record deficits that he has racked up with his profligate spending. We heard nothing of the continued economic stagnation and high unemployment, especially in the black community. We simply heard a celebration of the welfare state and a promise of something even worse. Obama proposed to make the fight against global warming a priority, a war on energy production that strikes at the heart of our industrial economy and that will depress living standards for all Americans.
Perhaps the most depressing part of the inauguration was the throngs of those Americans who are being slowly enslaved to the state by Obama’s policies and collectivist views cheering their enslaver.
But freedom cannot be snuffed out so easily. There are still enough Americans who understand where Obama is taking the country and who are acting to stop it. But they must not attack only the policies of Obama and his ilk as economically irresponsible. This is a battle of philosophies. They must counter Obama’s collectivism with a true individualism based on the morality of holding one’s own life as one’s highest value and accepting nothing less than the freedom to pursue one’s own happiness—the vision of America’s Founders.
Hudgins is director of advocacy for The Atlas Society.
For further reading:
*Walter Donway, “ Nationalizing the Financial Industry. ” July 25, 2012.
*Alexander Cohen, “ The Radical but Conservative Declaration of Independence. ” January 31, 2011.
*Edward Hudgins, “ Thoughts on Racial Thinking. ” January 17, 2009.
*Edward Hudgins, “ Will America Unite Under One Obama? ” December 29, 2008.
*Edward Hudgins, “ Color and Character. ” January 17, 2003.
Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.