Here is a joke, entitled “Looking for Work,” that has worked its way around the Internet:
An Israeli doctor says: “In Israel, medicine is so advanced that we cut off a man’s testicles, put them on another man and in 6 weeks, he is looking for work”.
The German doctor says: “that’s nothing, in Germany we take part of a brain, put it in another man, and in 4 weeks he is looking for work”.
The Russian doctor says: “gentlemen, we take half a heart from a man, put it in another’s chest and in 2 weeks he is looking for work”
The United States doctor laughs: “You all are behind us. Five years ago, we took a man with no brains, no heart and no balls and made him President. Now, the whole country is looking for work!”
How could the people of the United States perform such a reckless act: install the most manifestly unqualified presidential candidate as CEO of the US and leader of the free world? I will offer a brief and well-worn answer to that question and then attempt to answer two important follow up questions:
- What does the fact that we did elect – and re-elect – Obama say about America?
- Do the results of Obama’s presidency and the events of the last five years support the conclusions drawn in the answer to the first question?
Many theories have been advanced purporting to account for Obama’s election: he was exceedingly charming and intelligent; he represented a clear alternative to the style and policies of his unpopular predecessor; his competition was exceptionally weak; his organization ran an unusually innovative and technologically savvy campaign far beyond those of his opponent. But the most common explanation served up, and the one that I believe is the most accurate is the following. The country viewed his elevation to the presidency as an act of expiation that: was merited by the USA’s wicked history of slavery and segregation; would heal the deep wounds inflicted on our society by that bitter legacy; and would unify our country and cement our status as the most successful multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multicultural society in the history of the world. And it would grant us renewed moral authority to continue to pursue our American experiment to create the freest, most prosperous and most exceptional nation on the face of the earth.
It was impossible not to see that, in a formal sense, Obama was totally unqualified to stand for the job. He had no executive experience, no managerial experience, and he knew virtually nothing about business, economics, foreign policy or national defense. He had no military record, a meager congressional record, and what few positions he had were handed to him without his demonstrating any qualifications to justify them. It is truly correct to assert that by any objective measure, he was completely unqualified to be considered as a candidate for president. Moreover, that was totally obvious to anyone who paid the slightest attention.
Nevertheless, the people chose him to be their president. And the only explanation that makes any sense is the expiation one offered. Well, there is a second – namely, that the American people are overwhelmingly stupid, ignorant, myopic and self-destructive. I don’t buy that – although, sometimes I wonder.
Now let us deal with the two follow up questions. First, what does Obama’s election – and perhaps even more seriously, his re-election – say about America? Well, the expiation explanation certainly says that the stain of slavery and racial bigotry weighs heavily on our souls. We desperately wished to wash out the stain and the election of a black man to the presidency would go a very long way toward accomplishing that goal. But given that he was unqualified and that the likelihood of alternate possibilities arising in the near future were good (in fact, Colin Powell might very well have preceded Obama if he had had the courage to run), surely it occurred to many that the price of electing Obama might easily outweigh the benefit. If one allowed oneself to go beyond the atonement issue, it was also impossible not to see the radically left proclivities of the man, the sordid background of some of his closest associates and the intolerance and arrogance that characterized many of his attitudes. Yet America ignored these dreadful warning signs and installed him anyway. And then they re-installed him!
What that says about America is much more than that we were desperate to expunge our racial sins. It says that we were equally interested in expelling far more of our culture and character than just our racial biases. In short, it announced that the US is now infected with the same disease that has laid low our European cousins: the loss of faith in our own culture.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the Europeans surveyed the wreckage of their twentieth century achievements: two world wars that killed tens of millions of people; a Holocaust that exceeded any genocide in history in its cold-blooded, meticulous planning and execution; and a legacy of corrupt and rapacious colonial regimes that they viewed as the cause of vast misery in Africa and Asia. The Europeans decided that their culture – more commonly known as Western Civilization – was to blame and resolved to cast it off. Finding little to replace it, the peoples of Western Europe have sunk into a motley group of centrally-governed, irreligious, amoral, meek, increasingly poor, social welfare states that bear little resemblance to the powerful and confident societies of the past (e.g., Spain and Holland in the 1600s, France in the 1700s, Germany in the late 1800s and England for roughly 300 years ending in the mid-1900s).
Despite the fact that the US had little to do with initiating any of the twentieth century misery created by the Europeans – indeed, we spent a good bit of blood and treasure cleaning it up, our country has, as of late, decided to join our European cousins in their march to oblivion. We too have seemingly lost faith in our own culture. That is the central meaning in the election and re-election of Barack Obama. Our dear president never manifests any love for or pride in the country that entrusted the oval office to him. He has made clear in his books and his utterances – and in the friends he keeps – not only that America has not been a force for good in the world, but rather its legacy of: slavery, discrimination against women and minorities, internment of Japanese-American citizens, military aggression in the Middle East, income inequality, and myriad other social evils are indelible stains that must be atoned for by redistributing American wealth, diluting America’s power and subjugating its will to that of the “international community.” He clearly holds in disdain: the Christian religion, middle American morality, success in business, the concept of American Exceptionalism, American military might and the Constitutional system upon which our society was founded. Therefore, by choosing him – and then re-anointing him, the American people have proclaimed a loss of faith in America’s traditional ideals and principles. The people are ready to cast them aside, or if not that, then not to resist as they are torn from our hands.
Now for the second question: Do the events of the last five years reinforce or subvert the allegations made above? The answer is unequivocally the former. For what are the signal events of the last five years? Let’s identify only those that can be tied in a significant way to the fact that Barack Obama has been president during that period:
- Obamacare became the law of the land. One sixth of the US economy has been nationalized; tens of millions of people have had the cost and quality of their health care adversely affected; all to insure less than one-quarter of the 10% of the population that was previously uninsured.
- The federal debt has exploded and has been set on a catastrophically unsustainable path that poses an existential threat to our nation.
- America’s defenses have been eviscerated. At the same time, the nation has been repeatedly embarrassed and derided by its enemies; while our allies have lost faith in our ability to protect them.
- The economy has as yet to recover in anything approaching a normal fashion from the economic tumult of 2007-2009.
- Family structure is crumbling, religion is on the wane, smut and pornography saturate the entertainment media, but abortion and gay marriage are thriving.
- We are witnessing the arrogant behavior of the most lawless administration, certainly since Nixon and perhaps ever.
- Despite the discovery of new domestic energy resources, the administration is doing everything it can to cripple the domestic energy industry. In its stead, it seeks to put a green roof over every head and an efficient flush handle in every hand.
Moreover, with the exception of the first and fourth bullets above (Obamacare and the economy), the American public doesn’t seem to care very much. Obama and his henchmen are working as hard as they can to fundamentally transform America from a constitutional republic into a centrally-managed unexceptional, militarily weak, egalitarian, poor, social welfare state. The American people should be up in arms. Obama’s impeachment should be under serious consideration. But, as I said, with some exception, the public does not seem terribly disturbed about the coming fate to which Obama is leading us. Again, the only possible explanation is that a major percentage of the American people has lost faith in the classical American ideal and is content to see the country transformed.
The joke that opened this piece is very funny. But the real joke is on us.
Ron Lipsman, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the University of Maryland, writes about politics, culture, education, science and sports at http://ronlipsman.com