What needs transformation cannot be loved
Past columns of mine have discussed President Obama’s professed determination to “transform” America into a European welfare state. Most Americans in 2008 clearly did not take him all that seriously, believing — erroneously — that his terminology was just another word for changing policy. But his promises then to lower the earth’s temperature and make the oceans recede were not only over the top but evidence of grandiose ambitions borne of a faux claim to national transcendence — a character flaw which is considerably more widespread than most people believe.
I went to college in the 1960s with people who think like Obama. We called them liberals in those days, although they now prefer to be called Progressives, actually a more accurate term. What they say about America, free enterprise, Republicans, the Bible, and Western civilization is too easily dismissed as silly college talk and too often regarded as no more amenable to change than the weather. But I submit that this perspective on the world, which has been gaining ground for at least a century in this country, is at war with our heritage.
The movie “2016,” produced by Dinesh D’Souza, about the anti-colonialist background of our President, has succeeded both at the box office and at convincing people that his administration should not be extended. As much as I admire and appreciate its contribution to public understanding, its emphasis on the theme of anti-colonialism is superfluous. That is, even if Obama had not grown up in Indonesia and Kenya, his point of view is at most different in degree but not in kind from Progressivism. How so?
Berating America for real and alleged sins and injustices has been the stock in trade for Progressives for all of my adult life, and for many years before. Its core doctrine is that governments exist not, as the Declaration of Independence teaches us, to secure every person’s rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness but indiscriminately to eliminate all inequalities between people — in wealth primarily, but also in achievement, upbringing and status.
The Declaration is based on the idea that nature is fixed and immutable and therefore the human condition cannot be fundamentally transformed, however much it can be and has been improved in material and political ways. Progressivism, on the other hand, follows Darwin in holding that human nature is constantly changing and therefore government and society, not to mention the Constitution, must change along with it.
The abstract character of this discussion quickly becomes concrete when one factors human beings into the equation. How admirable is a society and a people who — stubbornly — insist that human beings are what they have always been and always will be: the greatest of God’s creations who dominate the earth but who decisively lack perfection? The human race has many virtuous and admirable qualities but enough vices to make the perfect society impossible.
It therefore should be no surprise that Progressives regularly and vehemently slander this people as oligarchic, bigoted, racist, chauvinistic, imperialistic, homophobic and even speciesist. That is, the rich rule our country, we are narrow minded, intolerant of racial minorities, prejudiced for the white race, disrespectful of females, too prone to fight wars, unaccepting of diverse sexuality, and lethal to animals.
From the Progressive point of view, those retrograde traits stand in the way of the supposedly “historic” trend toward greater and greater equality of condition (as distinguished from equality of rights and opportunity). Those young liberals I knew 50 years ago believed that free enterprise was simply rule by the rich and that America, in its defense of its independence and support of its allies, was a greater threat to world peace and stability than even the Soviet Union. They hated businessmen and invariably made apologies for Soviet misconduct.
Today’s liberals are different only in that they have moved to an even more extreme position. Whatever respect their forebears had for their heritage has shrunk to almost nothing as they now war directly against two-parent families, natural marriage, sexual integrity, Biblical faith and moral virtue.
Putting Progressivism in the context of anti-colonialism, as “2016” does, deprives it of its roots in the American way of life but the sad fact is that its development here, in the midst of the greatest freedom and prosperity the world has ever known, had little or nothing to do with anti-colonialism and everything to do with rejection of Americanism. (More about the origins of Progressivism next week.)
ABOUT THE WRITER
Richard Reeb taught political science, philosophy and journalism at Barstow College from 1970 to 2003. He is the author of “ Taking Journalism Seriously: ‘Objectivity’ as a Partisan Cause” (University Press of America, 1999). He can be contacted at email@example.com.