Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The American President

You Americans are a deeply interesting people. And you are made interesting because you have only had one thought around which all your other thoughts and actions have revolved. Imagine how an ordinary man in some part of the world that is perhaps dark and dreary, if not horrible, reacts when he hears an American speak about the world and the possibilities therein. Imagine how he envies you, how he might think you’re lucky--and maybe even unworthy of your freedom and wealth and greatness--how he might think that you are a romantic tilting at windmills. Imagine then when he realizes that, somehow, when you speak of how things ought to be you are also speaking of him and for him, that you confuse man with citizen, that you are beyond idealism in your ends and purposes. And yet, he listens to the cadence of your words because, somehow, it sits well in his ear and in his soul. Imagine then the man who is in a cold and damp cell--with the windows covered in tin--and without hope, hearing, perhaps as coded taps on concrete walls between the prison cells, that the American president knows your condition and stands with you and has said that Americans will pay any price and bear any burden for the cause of liberty, that slavery is wrong and a just God knows it, that we know there are evil regimes in the world, and that America stands in opposition to human beings being treated like dogs. And then he hears that America will use its considerable influence in freedom’s cause. Your only response to that is this: I now have hope and I hope they have the courage. The rest of it, the grey fog of the practical that intellectuals prefer to focus on, is secondary to such a man in such a condition, no matter where the place. Yes, you Americans are an interesting people, and we are glad that you live and breathe and talk. And I will make sure that my grandchildren know the things for which you have always stood, and how you tried to do what’s right. And they will remember and honor your name and the names of your statesmen who knew how the world ought to be.
A fine speech Mr. President. Thank you.

Discussions - 17 Comments

"I now have hope and I hope they have the courage." Well put! The hope of the despairing and the courage of the caring--not a bad theme for a speech, and something like what our president delivered yesterday. The beauty of its argument was precisely Bush’s connecting freedom to one’s independence, both at home and abroad, and in national as well as individual life.

I add, with John Moser (who said as much in a recent blog), that Bush must connect our toppling of tyrants to national defense, or he really has changed his mind about not pursuing regime-building in foreign lands (a campaign pledge from the 2000 election).

It is hard to respond to such nonsense. Peter, do you understand that we killing others and establishing nothing good in the world?

Do you understand there is a real world outside your office, and in that world people are suffering due to our actions?

Do you understand that Americans will not pay any price to "free" others, and that is why photos of the dead on not on your television screen?

The world does not envy us, it hates us. It hates us because we kill when we have no business doing so, because we tie prisoners to leashes like dogs, because lock up men guilty of living near a roadside bomb, because we demean, humiliate, and rape those men.

What do the "coded taps" in our prisons mean? Lookout, here comes the American that will force you to masterbate?

We are killing and expanding and dying for nothing that promotes peace and prosperity.

You may wish to consider ideas that transcend reality, but drop down here to the world and look around. You will find destruction, chaos, and a war that violates our principles.

Daniel-Time will tell. You ask "do you not understand..." Yes, I do, as do others. I don’t think you have an accurate view, that we are hated by all, or an accurate historical basis, that we will fail and the world will remain with it’s tyrants in place. The only people that hate us are our enemies. I don’t pay them any mind. I believe that in time, 50-100 years, people will look back and realize that this period of time was the time when the world rejected tyranical rulers that enslaved people. It began with the fall of the USSR, and marched along, nation by nation, where people, by rule or by force, rejected it’s dictators. I understand your views. I reject them. There were many like you in the 80’s that warned of upsetting the USSR. I believe you are on the wrong side of history while it’s being made.

I would not give a damn what you think if you would keep your putrid disfunctional lifestyle at home.

Walter - I gather you disagree. Fair enough. I also imagine there were those like you that felt the same during our actions in the Philipines, Cuba, WW1 in Europe, WW2 in Europe and the Pacific, and Korea. And let’s not forget the cold war. History has shown those actions to be on the correct side of history. Viet Nam is thought to have been a waste of America’s soldiers. I wonder, would it have been a waste if it were faught like the Iraq war, and it ended with all of Viet Nam being a free democracy, and avoided the millions murdered under the communists rule since then? And perhaps fostered democracy in Cambodia as well? If we followed your advice to keep our "putrid dysfunctional lifestyle" at home we might not be free today but under the rule of the Germans Nazis or the Emperial Japaneese. Sorry, I’m not willing to risk that today we might be obliterated by some terrorist group or a rouge nation like Iraq. Don’t think it’s possible? No one in America thought the Japanseese would attack the US either, or have out planes used against us.

This is just a short question. Why do you always say you Americans? After all, you are an American yourself. Is this phrasing for dramatic effect or is it a subtle acknowledgement of your immigrant past?

Scariest Part of the Speech for me:

"So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."

When did that become policy? Suddenly, I am confused. I thought we were in Iraq because they were a threat to us (after we’d established that there wasn’t anymore WMD and that Saddam didn’t have any links with al-Queda). But . . . now it seems that . . . we’re all about the democracy? Is this as big of a change in policy as I think it is? Thoughts, please . . . ?

Dear Peter;

I know from whence you come. I know your story, your history, your passion. And I sincerely appreciate that context you. personally, offer your commentary on the "news of the day." And I know, given your your story, how deeply you must have breathed in the idealistic tone of the President’s speech.

Me, too, Peter.

All that I wish for, freedom for all Schramms aside, is that Peter might grow... that he might become more and more enlightened, that he might come to fully, and truly embrace...

... the full meaning and power of a paragraph. :)


Marc S. Lamb

Daniel Kubiak-

I have a few things to say in response to what you have said.

"Do you understand there is a real world outside your office, and in that world people are suffering due to our actions? " Of course there is a real world outside Dr. Schramm’s office. The reality of that world is a world where soccer teams were thrown into wood chippers because they lost the Olympics. It is a reality where people suffer not because of the US’s action, but rather because of men like Hussein. Not because of a country that is attempting to do good, but because of men who accomplish evil because it is their whim.

"The world does not envy us, it hates us. It hates us because we kill when we have no business doing so, because we tie prisoners to leashes like dogs, because lock up men guilty of living near a roadside bomb, because we demean, humiliate, and rape those men. " America kills when we have no business doing so? I believe not, although I may be wrong. Hitler killed when he had no business doing so. Soviet historian Roy Medvedev estimated that about 20 million died from starvation, executions, forced collectivization, and life in the labor camps under Stalin’s rule. Genghis Khan tried to conquer the world, and ended up killing a great deal of people in the process. To kill in order to save many more human lives than must be killed is indeed a just action. Had no one stood up to Hitler, he may have killed 20 million Jews instead of 12 million. We went to war with Hitler to prevent that from happening. We went to war with Hussein to prevent him from killing millions more of his own, innocent, civilians.

"You may wish to consider ideas that transcend reality, but drop down here to the world and look around. You will find destruction, chaos, and a war that violates our principles." Yes, the world is full of destruction and chaos. Is that America’s fault? Possibly, but probably not entirely. Tyrants certainly contribute a great deal to this destruction and chaos. A war that violates our principles? Whose principles? Yours? Certainly not mine. Apparently not the majority of Americans, considering President Bush was re-elected. There’s an interesting thought. I seem to hear a lot these days about how the war was unjust, superfluous, "stupid," and even evil. And yet, GWB was re-elected. Apparently most of the country did not seem to think this war unnecessary. Untimely? Possibly. However I consider it too late. When is a better time to topple tyrannies than as soon as before? Later? Is that a better time? All that would mean is more killing, more "destruction, chaos." The sooner Tyrants are gone, the better.

Chris - Daniel is typical of the ignorant Left and is not arguing in good faith. You are wasting your breath.

Peter - Excellent article. Could just as easily come from dissidents in the Soviet Bloc listening to Reagan’s speeches. How is it that America’s "intellectual elite" never seems to learn from History?

Come on - at best, that "article"/post might be worthy of the foreward of the next book of bloviating tripe that Charlie Daniels decides to excrete. (But let me guess, Daniels is probably getting some high-ranking post in the Bush admin.)

And the "you Americans" gimmick (for super-cheap dramatic affect) is really silly and tired.

Professor Schramm:

I was just wondering how it feels to be poked at by those who do not know a wit about you?

I understand you probably won’t answer that because you are too classy of a person to do so.

BUt I still felt compelled to say something in light of the ’cultured’ statements of ____ .

Great post and keep them coming, I know how much time you put into to writing them. And I know that you are careful and thoughtful of what you write. I also know some of your background. Thank you for the kind words to "us" Americans. But, please do not forget that many of "us" consider you one as well.

Marc: You are right and I am trying. The paragraph is a tricky thing for someone like me. And I will keep trying! I love the sound of language (even Hungarian) and am ill at ease with the writing of it. At least the latter point should be obvious to any fool who continues to read what I "write." I think speech is natural and easily praticed, used, and perfected. I think writing is an invention and is much more difficult for me. The fact that there is a gap between the spoken and the written word is something I regret. And, I envy and honor those who can write a fine paragraph. I’ll keep trying.

Martin: I use "you Americans" in speech when I want to make a point that wants to distance itself somewhat from those who think themselves within a particular act or deed. It is an attempt to distance, perhaps an attempt at perspective, if you like. I guess it may be called a cheap trick by some. O.K. Of course, I am an American. I hope. And, with respect to the sensibilities of those who disagree, or do not understand, I do think that you Americans are the most interesting people I have ever encountered. I have seen too much and read enough to know that. I can only hope that that does not offend you.

The question we all need to ask ourselves is whether we would sign up to support the President’s policy, or better yet, would we sign up our children to support the President’s policy.
If this war is about freeing people on distant soil and spreading democracy to those who need it, then it is a humanitarian war. We do not need American soldiers to fight this kind of war. We need a class of noblemen who have a duty to mankind, who are citizens of the world, and who are willing to die for the cause of the oppressed. This is a high calling, and it is quite logical. After all, what did I do that I deserve to live on American soil? Why has the Almighty allowed me to enjoy the freedom that few around the world enjoy?
But is it a job for the American soldier? The American soldier has a duty to protect America, not the interests of humanity. It is not right to extend the tour of duty for our reservists and soldiers who signed up to protect America if they are merely spreading freedom out of the goodness of the nation’s collective heart.
And so this where I find myself. I go from day to day, pursuing my own happiness, and when I look at myself in the mirror, I wonder how I can support the President’s policy if I do not volunarily enlist. If this war is about national security, then the soldiers made a conscious decision and determined that the risk was worth the benefit (whether sentimental, monetary, or other). But if this war is about a love for fellow man, then how can I, an able-bodied man, support the President’s policy of spreading freedom throughout the world if I have not enlisted in the cause? Perhaps we all need to ask that question.
I voted for President Bush, and I am not saying we never should have liberated Iraq. I support our troops, and I pray for their safe and speedy return. But we also need to think deeply about what it means to spread freedom and what the cost will be to each of us in the future. Jesus cautioned his disciples that they could not bear the cross that he bears, nor could they drink of the cup from which he drinks. If we are going to support the President’s policy of spreading freedom, we need to do so in recognition of what it can and will cost each of us as well.

Kevin Mitchell

First of all I would be suprised if the person posting is the Marine corps Dan Kubiak I knew. I hope it isn’t.

But if it is then being a marine is tough and sometimes you have to doubt yourself.

To reply to Kevin I would argue that you don’t need to enlist in order to agree with Bush. Not everyone in the Army supports the presidents policies or is glad to be in the desert, not everyone is capable of knowing why we are there, and sometimes its hard to figure out in the "grey fog" of the practical, the exact reasons that can make sense to a person. Some people want to go to Iraq for the wrong reasons (more pay). Basically if there is a reason you can think of for being for or against Iraq there are soilders who hold those opinions. The Army is the most diverse organization in the world. There are a lot of soilders from low income families who did it for college money, again some soilders think it is easy money, most don’t. The thing of it is, we can’t compute what it will cost each one of us, most people go to Iraq and come back with about 20,000 in spending money, for those that don’t come home or come home injured money isn’t the issue. Some people have nightmares, some have it easy, some get it really bad. On thing that people forget is that soilders are proffesionals, back in the states being a soilder is like having a regular job. Most soilders aren’t terribly sure what supporting the consitution means in theory, but if the unit gets deployed they suck it up and roll out. When it comes time to re-enlist soilders can stay or go(of course some get called back). For some people it isn’t a cross to bear, it is unfair to say that everyone pays the same price. In war that just isn’t true. Very few people in the Army are willing to die for this or any other cause, but many are willing to dance. We don’t need to invent a class of noble men, nor do we need to be such a class. If anything the army is made up of "sections" or groups of friends that team up to help each other out and accomplish the mission. No one wants to die and no one wants a friend to die because of stupidity, the question of being a citizen of the world doesn’t come up. Some soilders are crude and cruel and abuse power, and some are the best people you could meet. The Army teaches you things about yourself, some of which you might have to unlearn.

It is not about signing up your children, no one in the Army is in it because their parents signed them up. (howhever some are in it because they see it as the only way out, and sometimes it is a good way out.)

There isn’t much Idealism in the Army for spreading freedom to the world but what does exist and what people remember and tell me about are stories of a kid smilling because he received a package of M&M’s (only to see him get mobbed by others and beaten up for it)

But such things give pause because we then realize that we are lucky to be americans and have plenty, and soilders who do come home are probably more grateful for what they have in a way most people couln’t understand. Imagine finding pleasure in what was once routine. (Eating a Whopper or Drinking a Dr. Pepper) such trivial concerns are denied to many in the world, and you realize it because perhaps for the first time trivial concerns were denied to you, and you kind of hope for the best, hope that the Iraqi’s can rule themselves and prosper as a free people drinking Dr Pepper "Be you" and eating Burger King "Have it your way".

Oh, good Lord...

Thanks, John Lewis, for your inspirational message regarding hope and freedom, sponsored by M&Ms, Burger King, and Dr. Pepper.

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