Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The other side of the coin: what Obama got right

My previous piece on the President's second Inaugural Address was pretty harsh. And that's because some of the things the President said were pretty ridiculous. And pretty deceptive, in service to the President's own ideology. But he said some things that were spot on, that are not only true but are also things that many Republicans and conservatives need to hear, need to understand, and need to accept. This portion is what I'm talking about:
It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.

That is our generation’s task – to make these words, these rights, these values – of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – real for every American.
Not all of the above is right and true, but some of it most surely is. And I've broached one of those issues before. My words, from back in January of last year:
Many of the Republican hopefuls--like those in the tea party movement--recognize this, I think. But at the same time, they also spend what is in my opinion an inordinate amount of time on specific issues that--in the context of the most important problems--are just not that significant. I'm speaking of abortion and same-sex marriage.  
The libertarian in me says "let it go, people have a right to make choices." For no matter what anyone says, an abortion is a medical procedure and it can be justified. Is it a "good thing"? No. But it must be allowed though not encouraged. And same-sex marriages will take place in defacto form if the States do not allow them. The struggle against them is pointless and--again, in my opinion--deeply wrong-headed, since people must be allowed to seek happiness, especially when that happiness promotes social cohesion with no cost to others.
Obama is wholly and absolutely correct on this issue; the continued opposition to gay marriage among many Republicans and conservatives is useless and stupid. Look at what the official Republican Party platform says about this issue:
We recognize and honor the courageous efforts of those who bear the many burdens of parenting alone, even as we believe that marriage, the union of one man and one woman must be upheld as the national standard, a goal to stand for, encourage, and promote through laws governing marriage. We embrace the principle that all Americans should be treated with respect and dignity.
What a bunch of doublespeak. "All Americans should be treated with dignity and respect" unless they're gay Americans and want to live as a family. Really, I'm categorically opposed to almost all "laws governing marriage." It's not the Federal Government's business to make such laws. No where in the Constitution is it given such authority, anymore than it is given the authority to mandate how and when political speech takes place or the authority to arbitrarily limit the scope of the Second Amendment. Too many Republicans and conservatives see the truth of the latter two issues, but refuse to grasp the truth of the former. So Obama is indeed correct when he calls for equal treatment for "our gay brothers and sisters."

He is also correct--in essence--about immigration. The promise of America is and has always been a promise of opportunity for newcomers of all sorts, as long as they accept and obey the same laws and requirements as citizens that bind us all. In practice, he's probably going to be wrong somewhat on this, with things like the Dream Act. But he remains correct in essence: paths to citizenship need to be more open, more welcoming. And indeed, many Republicans and conservatives feel the same way (many have always felt that way, in fact). Marco Rubio is already using his considerable political capital in this regard and is gathering support. The xenophobic elements within the Republican Party need to recognize why they are wrong by returning to first principles, again something they are quick to do on other issues but not on this one.

Finally, Obama is also correct with regard to the purpose of government: making the idea of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness real for every American.

But then Obama overplays his hand, as he is so often wont to do:
Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time – but it does require us to act in our time.
True, we do not need to agree on "every contour of life." After all, that's why we have different States, different cities, different communities, all with different rules. But we do need to understand what liberty is and what it entails. And we do need to achieve an understanding on the proper extent of government. Or rather, we need to educate that portion of the population who have fallen under the spell of those trumpeting government as the solution to all things.

And those are legitimate issues, ones that require a concerted effort emanating from the Right to overcome, lest all be lost. It's a tall order, to be sure. So, we would do well to recognize those issues many of our brethren on the right have wrong, to stop railing against all ideas and movements whose genesis is from the Left. Because those ideas are not always wrong. And when they're absolutely right--as in the case of gay marriage--all we need do is to simply accept the truth and take the issue off of the table and out of the national spotlight, move on, and be happy that justice is being served. Finally.

Cheers, all.


  1. Well said, sir.

    These issues are lost causes that never should have been causes in the first place. There are way more important issues that ought to demand the time of those who seek to affect policy.

    Speaking of lost causes, what in Dawg's name was Biden doing during the inaugural parade, prancing around like an abandoned shelter puppy looking for a new family? I will be expecting a whole series of posts on this most important issue.

  2. Every court needs a jester. But I do plan on another "inaugural post"...