Thursday, September 1, 2011

American Unexceptionalism

Today’s must-read column comes to us from Shelby Steele.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal Steele wants us to understand that there is more to the Obama presidency than ineptitude and incompetence. 

Obama’s behavior and actions are not incoherent or disorganized. They are defined by an ideology that has become a leftist mindset.

The mindset reflects the ideology that came of age during the Vietnam War and that founded that era’s counterculture.

Steele explains: “Yet there is something more than inexperience or lack of character that defines this presidency: Mr. Obama came of age in a bubble of post-'60s liberalism that conditioned him to be an adversary of American exceptionalism. In this liberalism America's exceptional status in the world follows from a bargain with the devil—an indulgence in militarism, racism, sexism, corporate greed, and environmental disregard as the means to a broad economic, military, and even cultural supremacy in the world. And therefore America's greatness is as much the fruit of evil as of a devotion to freedom.

Whether he knows it or not, Obama suffers from a habit of leftist thought that sees American greatness and exceptionalism as the products of sin and corruption. Steele doesn’t say so, but this thought is theologically-based.

In his, more secular terms: “It is a left that has no more fervent mission than to recast our greatness as the product of racism, imperialism and unbridled capitalism.

The left wants to correct this malady by showing us the right way to atone for our sins. Steele suggests that it does so by making “a virtue of decline.”

If your gains were ill-gotten, the product of corrupt behavior, the first step toward redemption is renouncing them.

We now witness guilt-ridden billionaires railing about how little they are taxed. And we see them trying to find the way to salvation by giving it all to charity.

Worse yet, we have seen an administration that began its tenure by apologizing for America and that has continued by refusing to take the lead in international affairs.

The left sees decline as a good thing because it feels like justice. Mindlessly, it wants to eliminate all hierarchical distinctions and make everyone everywhere feel like equals.
At that point everyone will like everyone else and the kingdom of peace and justice will descend on earth.

Importantly, Steele points out that a leader who believes that the nation is exceptional must have confidence in the American people. And vice versa. An exceptional country must have been built by exceptional people. A corrupt, venal enterprise could only have come into being through the efforts of sinners.

An exceptional people do great things when they are allowed to exercise freedom and initiative. For this the government has to trust the people and get out of the way.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration is afflicted with habits of thought that think first about how to control and regulate evil impulses. The administration is afraid of the American people.

Steele writes: “As a president, Barack Obama has been a force for mediocrity. He has banked more on the hopeless interventions of government than on the exceptionalism of the people. His greatest weakness as a president is a limp confidence in his countrymen. He is afraid to ask difficult things of them.



Trailer Dweller said...

I would be a lot more inclined to believe certain billionaires are looking for true (Christian) salvation if they were giving all of their wealth to charity now, without breatbeating fanfare, and living a modest life.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Good point... so would I.

flynful said...

I understand the argument but I can't but conclude that a man who deliberately acts to diminish his role from being the most powerful man in the world to a (still very mean spirited) nebbish is just a dope. The problem is that he is taking the country with him to irrelevancy.
Steve G

Stuart Schneiderman said...

He can still be a dope and a dupe. I agree with you that he is leading the country away from greatness.