Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Questions for the Day

In his speech today in Berlin, Senator Obama said (according to Politico):

“People of Berlin, people of the world, this is our moment. This is our time,” he declared, offering himself “not as a candidate for president, but as a citizen, a proud citizen of the United States and a fellow citizen of the world.”


"We are a people of improbable hope. With an eye towards the future, with resolve in our heart, let us remember this history, and answer our destiny, and remake the world once again.”

1. What does it mean to be a "citizen of the world"? Is citizenship by nature particular or can it be universal?

2. Is the desire to "remake the world" misanthropic, or, perhaps we should only ask if it tends toward misanthropy. Does it imply dislike for what human beings are, even if it does so in the name of charity?

Discussions - 18 Comments

Is the cosmopolis possible? Is it desireable? Is it misanthropic? Will well-used cruelty be necessary for its achievement?

In his speech to the large crowd in Berlin, Obama avers yes to at least the first two questions. He says the "road" to the future of a "world without walls" will be a long and hard one--after all it will be a world without territorial or ideological or even psychic walls. I guess the human body will still maintain separation, but all other walls "must come down."

Nonetheless, Obama claims that the "sacrifices" we (we cosmopolitans) must make to further the achievement of this "interconnected" world will require much "resolve"--but "this is our destiny," we have no choice to assent.

Self sacrifice of this sort may be misanthropic, but perhaps it also recognizes something larger and nobler than one's own self--akin to Kantian moral autonomy. It requires a true self which is cosmopolitan--but perhaps a self that is not a citizen of a given political community (nor perhaps even a "citizen" of the world"). The emanicpation of this self is the charity of which you ask your question.

Does this imply that in a world without walls there need be no more citizenship? One need only be a true self--positively giving assent to one's undeniable "destiny" which categorically includes all humanity?

The discipline required to achieve such a self may nonetheless be cruel to oneself. It may even be a species of self-hatred based on the hope of things to come instead of true self-knowledge.

Further, one wonders if those who argue for and live according to the continued need for human beings to maintain the status of a citizen in a given political community (even a political community that is free, liberal, and democratic?) must be relegated to the status of a regressive denier of destiny. Must the good citizen of his regime be thereby dealt with accordingly, i.e., with the well-used cruelty of therapy, diversity training, and anger management? Can such charity fix him in his ways?

BTW--Obama's denial of his status as a presidential candidate and instead casting himself in the role of "world citizen" was ultimately not accepted by the crowd. The event was similar to all his other campaign rallies--with chants of "O-Ba-Ma" and "Yes We Can" continually interrupting his lofty cosmopolitanism.

A Simpson allusion:Mayor Quimby: "Ich bin ein Springfielder." Homer: "Mmmmm. Jelly Donuts."

B. Hussein Obama -'I am a citizen of the world'

Comman Man 'Flake'

Oh no. He might actually take the rest of the world seriously (and not just the terrorists). God be with us. I'm too young to even know what America would be like with out its arrogant ethnocentrism.

Of course, in reality, Obama's probably just as full of crap as the next politician. It's a nice change-up, though.

Neocon bloggers must instantaneously dismantle Obama's comments at a moments notice. Oops - Reagan introduced himself as a "citizen of the world" in a speech before the UN on June 17th, 1982. Gee, maybe he was the secret purveyor of therapy, diversity training, and anger management, also.

Just another pol saying, "With me in charge, I'll make all things better."

Free beer drew in huge crowds in Germany.

Well there's a shocker.

You know what happened today, you know what miracle the false messiah performed today, with his free beer and free bratwurst, --------------------------------- today the false messiah "fed the multitudes."

Arrogant pomposity from a pompous ass.

Good point on a bad attempt at "joshing" on my part with regard to therapy, diversity training, etc. Nonetheless, it makes no difference if Reagan spoke of himself as a citizen of the world in 1987. Ben Franklin spoke similarly in The Autobiography. This is hardly a novel idea, but it is indeed extraordinary--Plutarch addresses the question of the cosmopolis in his "Life of Alexander." More contemporaneously, Pierre Manent attempts to provide for some reasons in favor of citizenship in a nation-state in world that is nevertheless globalized. Perhaps Obama's rhethoric is merely base promise for political advantage--tropes pulled from "We Are the World" work well I suppose. But Obama articulatea a view of world citizenship in this speech--a world with all walls brought down. The original question was whether this is possible. Does not citizenship require a more particular focus--can it be expanded universally? Obama takes it as if it can. Perhaps this is true--but then one wonders what is required to achieve it. In Obama's defense, he makes an important distinction between "world citizen" and "American citizen" with what he calls his "proud" American citizenship--a modifier he does not extend to world citizenry. Can pride be neither diluted nor universalized in such a way that tips toward world citizenship? This element of "pride" is what belies his claims to not be a presidential candidate, and to repeat, the audience seemed to be just as proud too--chanting "O-Ba-Ma." So much for world citizenship.

I should add--Does free beer contribute to drunkenness? Can a speaker get a contact high from evaporating suds? Does this contribute to such talk of cosmopolitanism?

Other conservative sites have been taking the hide off Obama for his idiotic speech in Berlin and his idiotic "excellent adventure" abroad. There has been plenty of material to use against him in these last few days. But no, here at good old NLT, we bloviate about the nature of citizenship and make copious use of every liberal's favorite symbol, the question mark. Jesus Christ, people, wake up and smell the coffee.

Plain Vanilla--Questions marks may be liberal in that they say figure it out for yourself. In response, let me say that one should avoid cliches like the plague, but--to use a question mark with regard to another cliche--from what is the coffee supposed to awaken us?

Vanilla--my previous post sounded too brusque. Question marks also mean I don't have knowledge. These are questions I want answers to as well. I too recognize Obama's arrogance. I too can look at the smug righteousness he displays and be disgusted by it. Nonetheless, I admire the man for similar reasons that Julie Ponzi's earlier post points out with regard to the Shelby Steele article and Obama's relationship with the older black civil rights establishment. He is not of the Jesse Jackson ilk, and this can only be for the good. That being said, I think that Obama offers too much with regard to racial relations with regards to whites, and ultimately he will be unssucessful--especially if he ends up being incompetent as he has a good chance of becoming due to his lack of Washington experience. He offers too much promise, and when he ultimately fails, there will be calls for even more radical solutions. This is a problem. In defense of this particular thread, questions of citizenship are not ancillary to the important questions of the nature of the American republic and what it aims at with regard to the common good. Obama has a particular version of what is the good citizen--it is a cosmopolitan one. Obama seems to be aligned with the academic types who think that the entire idea of the nation state is obsolete. His "excellent adventure" as you humorously call it is typical of the stupidity with which the current US media deals with political issues--and there is no doubt that the mainstream media is in love with the man. Why not? There are no difficult decisions in this view--we can overcome it all. As a friend of mine says with disdain (she's female)--he looks good in a suit. He gives new meaning to the empty suit--he talks a bunch of BS, but Chris Matthews still has a homoerotic response (not that there's anything wrong with that! as Seinfeld would have it). It should be noted that Angela Merkel thought such an event that happened with Obama's speech in Berlin today was unseemly. When asked a couple of weeks ago about this event (or "happening" to use a 1960s phrase), she made the analogy of a German Chancellor candidate making an outdoor speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the campaign for the Chancellorship itself. Obama is shameless in this sense. Ich bin ein Berliner. Tear down this wall. Obama borrowed from both Kennedy and Reagan--and he claimed to make it as a citizen of the world. To borrow from Obama, talk about audacity. Whether Left or Right, Obama has no proper understanding of self government and it's relationship to constitutionalism. He thinks all walls can come down in the name of what? Himself? I mentioned the limitation of the body as not being a wall that can be broken down to make a rather esoteric point. If you look at the pictures of Obama making his speech in Berlin (or for that matter everywhere else), there is always an image of him in closeup--almost split diopter style--and an immense crowd. For all his talk of tearing down walls, a wall remains between himself and the crowd that chants his name. Though I hate the reductio ad hitlerum, and though I think it wouldn't apply in this circumstance even if one tried to apply it in the most judicious manner, I can't help but be struck the the photograpic iconography developed around the man. He is presented as a man apart who wants to end all apartness. Meanwhile the crowd chants "O-Ba-Ma."

Most of you guys will like this.

There is some scholarship on the issue of whether in 1860 the Germans elected Lincoln....

What interests me, but which hasn't drawn any comment (that I've seen, at any rate), is why Obama thinks this is some kind of special moment in history ("this is our time").

Is Obama saying that some objective reason accounts for this being "our time," or is he saying that it is a special moment merely because it is the moment when Obama himself happens to be running for president? In other words, does he really mean "this is MY time"? Does he think like Michelle, who has said that she has only now become proud of her country because her husband is running for president of it? If so, those two are even creepier than I thought.

John -- on reflection, my comment about question marks was a cheap shot. Consider it retracted. Let me add that the questions you're discussing are perfectly good ones. It's just that under the circumstances, considering the threat Obama represents and the con job that is being perpetrated on the American people, I want to see more red-meat attacks on No Left Turns, and fewer meditations. Plenty of time for those after Election Day.

I also generally endorse your comments in #13.

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