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Myth, Fantasy, and Silence: the Inaugural Address

By       Message Ross Brummet     Permalink
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On a day that celebrates the life of Martin Luther King, president Obama chose to talk about inequality. Considering the state of society, and the triple evils according to MLK Jr., you might presume he chose to have a serious conversation about racial and economic inequality. You would, of course, be incorrect. On this quadrennial day of formal indoctrination, Obama chose to eloquently evade the issues through a lovely mixture of myth, fantasy, and silence. Let us look at some choice quotes, starting with the following history lesson:  "The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob."

Mark this as half right. While it is certainly true that the founding fathers had a contempt for democracy, which they considered mob rule -- a tradition that has been dutifully carried on by succeeding presidents -- they most certainly did replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few. They didn't allow poor people, black people, women, or Native Americans to vote. They erected a branch of government, called the senate, whose sole purpose was to "protect the minority of the opulent against the majority."  Or as the the President of the Continental Congress and first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Jay eloquently put it: "The people who own the country ought to govern it."  What is this other than replacing the tyranny of the king with the privileges of a few? However, we live in a country that celebrates Columbus Day, so historical revisionism is kind of par for the course.

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One might instead suggest the positives of his quote about modern day America, where he states: " For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it." This might be something worth praise, if he didn't quickly follow it with this bizarre scenario: "We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own."

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Wait... say what? Shouldn't the goal be to keep little girls out of poverty? In Obama's utopian American society, children are still born into the "bleakest poverty", they just magically have the same chance to succeed as everyone else. Not only is this as ridiculous as it is meaningless -- even in countries with far greater economic mobility, poor children never have the same level of success as rich children -- but it's frightening in its vision. Even Nixon had to officially oppose poverty, Obama welcomes it as part of an ideal world. Progress in action!

Perhaps most disturbing, considering his presidency, and the legacy of MLK Jr., is how Obama completely ignored racial injustice in the United States, acting as if it was an issue of a bygone era. Quoth the President:

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths -- that all of us are created equal -- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.  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.

Brilliant, yes? In a society of horrible racial inequality, on a day that celebrates a man who spoke out against it, the first black president chose instead to talk about the inequality of gays and women. Seems legit.

Don't get me wrong, the discrimination against women and gay people in the United States is appalling, as all discrimination is. We nevertheless must retain some perspective. We live in a society in which more black people are in jail than were enslaved in 1850, in which the poverty rate of black children is nearly 40%, in which African Americans have more than double the white poverty rate. Yet on MLK day, a president who was overwhelmingly elected by African Americans, pretended none of these problems existed. However, it's ok, right? He's black after all, so I'm sure this is on his agenda...

...or not, whatever. 

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Ross Brummet is a student and writer in Los Angeles. Considering himself a utilitarian with libertarian socialist sympathies, he is fond of the views of Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, and Peter Singer. However he finds Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas (more...)

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