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And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.'”
– (Mark 7:6)
But know this, that in the last days grievous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of self … holding a form of godliness, but having denied the power thereof.
– (Timothy 3:1, 5)
Day by day the American people are learning from their experience of him that we cannot judge Obama by his words. Much of what he says is semi-fictional, like the book that purports to be his autobiography (“Dreams From My Father”). As I read the text of the speech he gave to the U.N. General Assembly this week, it occurred to me that it deserved a similar title, and a similar description of its content. The speech included the rhetorical equivalent of his deep bow to the Saudi monarch. Only this bow signaled subservience to the majority of U.N. member governments – a gaggle of socialist democracies, totalitarian tyrannies, dictatorships and absolute monarchies.
In a litany more appropriate to a prime minister of this illiberal majority than to any (even alleged) president of the United States, he dutifully reported on the long list of capitulations and betrayals of U.S. friends and interests that no have no doubt produced Libyan dictator Gadhafi’s satisfied verdict: “We are content and happy if Obama can stay forever as a president of the United States of America.” Gadhafi knows that, if Obama’s self-conscious destruction of U.S. military, economic and moral assets continues unchecked, the USA won’t last much longer, at least not as the troublesome champion of human liberty that has caused his ilk so much heartburn.
In the key respect, the speech accurately mirrored the hollowing out of America the Obama faction is implementing at breakneck speed. The outward form of America’s identity is being maintained, while its substance is being systematically demolished.
I was, of course, especially interested in the parts of the speech that purported to reflect America’s respect for the principles of liberty:
… [W]e must champion those principles which ensure that governments reflect the will of the people. These principles cannot be afterthoughts – democracy and human rights are essential to achieving each of the goals that I’ve discussed today, because governments of the people and by the people are more likely to act in the broader interests of their own people, rather than narrow interests of those in power. The test of our leadership will not be measured by the ability to muzzle dissent, or to intimidate and harass political opponents at home. The people of the world want change. They will no longer tolerate those who are on the wrong side of history.
Who could miss the echo of Lincoln’s famous description of republican government “of, by and for the people”? Of course Lincoln offered that formulation in the context of alluding to its basic premise, that we are “created equal and endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights.” However, Obama offers it in a very different context, that of the judgment of history. Since history is made by human beings, its judgments reflect whatever happens in human affairs, not what should happen. Lincoln’s premise refers instead to the standard in light of which history is to be judged, a standard based not on the outcomes human beings produce, but on the just will and intention that produced and takes account of human beings. This makes it possible for people who end up on the wrong side of history to battle on nonetheless, if the higher standard of justice implanted by God in the human heart and conscience assures them that they exercise a right that transcends history and the judgment of merely human powers.
Exploiting as he often does the false perception that he comes from and is especially familiar with the perspective of the black American struggle against injustice, Obama notes his “belief that no matter how dark the day may seem, transformative change can be forged by those who choose to side with justice.” He purports to “pledge that America will always stand with those who stand up for their dignity and their rights – for the student who seeks to learn; the voter who demands to be heard; the innocent who longs to be free; the oppressed who yearns to be equal.” But those who truly understand the transcendent source of the human claim to dignity and rights cannot but note that his words ring hollow. They ask themselves “What of those who cannot stand, or seek – the ones thrust out by lies, or ignorance or self-serving power, who suffer beyond longing or yearning or any human confirmation of their dignity? What of the voiceless ones, whom God intends for speech; the helpless one who by the nature He nonetheless destined for helping and hope and joy?”
Obama’s lips say, “There are basic principles that are universal.” But his actions and policies thrust from the universe helpless children in the womb and helpless victims like Terri Schiavo. His lips say, “There are certain self-evident truths,” but instead of life and liberty, he finally offers unwavering support only for the “right of people everywhere to determine their own destiny,” which means in fact to accept whatever destiny they can perceive as their own, within the limits fabricated by the manipulators of historical perception, with no regard for the better destiny to which “nature and nature’s God” entitle them.
In a world where scientific advances every day confirm the emerging possibility of techniques that will allow the abusive manipulation even of human perception and consciousness, the denial of a standard for justice beyond what people can, at any given moment, determine for themselves leaves open the door to abuses of the human person more thorough and unscrupulous than history has ever known before. Slyly, with a careful eye upon the outward trappings of self-evident truth, Obama and those who ultimately help to craft his rhetoric (as Bill Ayers apparently helped to craft his semi-fictional autobiography) wean humanity from its hard won acknowledgment of the substantive authority for truth that arms conscience against the depredations of those who make the claims of knowledge (scientific and otherwise) the basis for a claim to unlimited power. Their excuse for the power grab is the good of mankind, but why should we believe their motive is any different than it has ever been for those with such ambitions – the arrogant self-worship that prides itself upon making the promise of good a successful mask for evil.