28 January 2012

Martial-ing the Populace

Jonah Goldberg has a very good article critiquing President Obama's 2012 State of the Union address.

In the address, the president said of the military, “At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations. They’re not consumed with personal ambition. They don’t obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together. Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example. Think about the America within our reach.”

Goldberg responds, “…Obama is upending the very point of a military in a free society. We have a military to keep our society free. We do not have a military to teach us the best way to give up our freedom. Our warriors surrender their liberties and risk their lives to protect ours. The promise of American life for Obama is that if we all try our best and work our hardest, we can be like a military unit striving for a single goal. I’ve seen pictures of that from North Korea. No thank you, Mr. President.”

This is something I see very often, especially on facebook. How great everything would be if we could all agree. But no one really means this. They want agreement without compromise. Because compromise mucks everything up. What they really mean is “how great everything would be if everyone agreed with me.” Obama uses this trope painfully often. And to be fair, conservatives are just as guilty of the same sin but by taking a different tack; if you don’t agree with them, you are simply unpatriotic and hate your country. If you don’t agree with liberals, you are simply a troglodyte who hates humanity.

One can hold the idea that health insurance is a wonderful thing yet also think that state provided or mandated health insurance is an abomination without one’s head exploding.

One can agree that workers are perfectly within their rights to organize and bargain collectively in order to maximize their marginal benefit for their marginal product and yet also think that, say, teachers going on strike because they think contributing anything towards their benefits package is akin to the fabulous images of worker exploitation promulgated by the likes of Upton Sinclair is absurd.

It seems entirely reasonable to me to agree (or disagree) that America was well within her rights to attack Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks and also believe that we had no right or reason to do anything in Iraq, or Libya for that matter. And believing that no government official, including the president of the United States, has the right to detain, much less kill, any human being (and not merely US citizens, which went out the window anyway) with out due process or a proper declaration of war is not treasonous. Nor is it dangerous.

Nor is it dangerous to consider that the constitution establishes and limits the federal government, not lays out which rights are reserved for American citizens in light of contemporary issues or that if you are not an American citizen, all bets are off.

Believing that the government has the authority to tell you what you must do or buy simply because Congress gave the OK; agreeing that the president has the authority to kill anyone he believes might pose a threat to our “security interests;” abdicating the doctrine that a man is capable of and responsible for his own welfare; rejecting the notion that governments exist to protect one’s wealth and not to redistribute it, this is what is dangerous.

No comments: