The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Downright Mean

Lauren Collins writes a lengthy piece profiling Michelle Obama in The New Yorker. In it, she describes Mrs. Obama’s stump speech—“ a forty-five-minute monologue that she composed herself and delivers without notes.”

Collins describes the speech:
Obama begins with a broad assessment of life in America in 2008, and life is not good: we’re a divided country, we’re a country that is “just downright mean,” we are “guided by fear,” we’re a nation of cynics, sloths, and complacents. “We have become a nation of struggling folks who are barely making it every day,” she said, as heads bobbed in the pews. “Folks are just jammed up, and it’s gotten worse over my lifetime. And, doggone it, I’m young. Forty-four!”

This dark view of America at the beginning of the 21st century is ideologically far-Left. There is no balance in Obama’s view, no indication that she thinks the country may be doing at least a few good things. No discussion of widespread charitable acts, concern for those who are disabled, a health care system that despite all it faults, is among the best in the world, no mention of our contributions to the sciences, our attempts to foster human rights across the globe, our innovation, job creation, and our stable society and vital economy—where upward mobility is available to anyone with the will and the intent.

My story in this “divided country” is typical of millions of others, people of all colors, religions, and economic circumstances. The story is almost always the same: A boy (or girl) from a lower middle class, blue collar family goes to run-down public schools in an urban area (unlike the Obamas who both attended prep schools and later Harvard), who attends a public university and working every day, pays his own way, who gets a job in a “big corporation” that teaches him enough to allow him to gain the confidence to assert his independence, who returns to graduate school and over time, builds a small business, proceeding in small steps, taking personal and financial risks, to greater and greater personal and material success. A boy who never looked to the government for assistance, but paid his taxes so that others could. And later, a man who sees his children take the same road and achieve their own independence and success.

When I hear Left-wing tripe like that spewed by Michelle Obama, it makes me angry, very angry. Sure, our country has problems. Sure our leaders make mistakes. Sure some people struggle, but their struggles are sometimes self-imposed and cannot be fixed solely by big government that all too often strips them of their self-esteem and their initiative.

What Michelle Obama is incapable of understanding is that America is not a zero-sum game. Everyone has an opportunity to succeed, even if some have to work just a bit harder. My success in no way limits another person’s success. In fact, it often facilitates it.

I don’t know how much Mrs. Obama reflects her husband’s ideological point of view. But if I were to guess, I suspect that behind the soaring rhetoric about change, Barack Obama sees the same dark images and intends to effect change to “correct” them.

The problem, of course, is that those dark images aren’t real. A country that is “just downright mean” exists only in the delusional thinking of a Left-wing Harvard grad who, it appears, is incapable of seeing the good that so many of us have experienced in our journey through American life.

Update (3/7/08):

In an interesting piece on Barack Obama's ideological upbringing, Mona Charen concludes with this comment:
Obama’s self-portrait in this book [Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance] is that of a searching, nonjudgmental young man attempting to find his rightful place after a confusing start in life. But he is attracted by the harshly ideological Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose church he joins. Wright peddles racial-grievance religion. Following 9/11, he said, “[W]hite America got a wake-up call. . . . White America and the Western world came to realize that people of color had not gone away, faded into the woodwork or just ‘disappeared’ as the Great White West kept on its merry way of ignoring black concerns.”

Obama says he doesn’t agree with Wright about everything. Fine. And maybe he doesn’t agree with his wife when she (twice) said that she’d never been proud of her country until its people began to support her husband. But then, what did he mean when he said on March 4 that making a little girl proud to say she is an American is the “change we are calling for”?

One suspects that beneath the soothing talk, there is bitterness in the man that we’d best learn more about before voting.