MICHELLE OBAMAâ€™S MESSAGE FOR US
"Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed."
This statement by Michelle Obama on Feb. 18, 2008, at an appearance at UCLA, initially struck me as supremely arrogant and frightening… because it is supremely arrogant and frightening; and it is an honest expression -except for the putting-down-divisions part – of what Obama has tried to do as President.
It is an expression of progressive presumptuousness: trying to make people better; thinking the right leaders can mold us into the kind of people that the progressives think that we should be.
But let’s look at it from a different angle; perhaps we should be thanking Michelle Obama for her prescience.
What if you read this as a statement directed to the classical liberals among us – the conservatives, libertarians, Tea Party members; freedom-loving people of different orientations? I think this is a profoundly accurate statement of what Obama and the increasingly left leaning Democrat party have required of us – and what we must do in response.
I don’t like it. I would much rather focus all of my time and energy on my work, my family, my friends, and the things that interest me and matter deeply to me. I would rather take my freedom as a given, as something I can take for granted.
This is what too many of us feel, I’m afraid. It is not in the nature of freedom-loving folks to want to be involved in government. It’s like asking somebody who couldn’t care less about sports to pay attention to the details and goings on during football season; or somebody who dislikes music to master an instrument.
We don’t want government to be doing most of what it’s doing. We don’t want to be involved in government. It infuriates us, it annoys us… it bores us.
We don’t care about government. We care about freedom. And the government’s activities – beyond its role of guaranteeing property rights and a stable and limited structure of law – are for the most part the antithesis of freedom.
Meanwhile, over on the left, government is the means and the ends of everything that matters. Social Justice, enforced equality, freedom from responsibility for one’s errors and shortcomings, collective identity, and Rousseau’s "general will," are all ideals that can only be pursued and advanced through government force.
Therefore, for the leftist, everything meaningful, everything that inspires them and moves them, is achieved through activism, and through amassing a greater concentration of control through government processes.
For those of us who value individual liberty, it is often thought to be enough to elect a champion, or somebody whom we can perceive as a champion, of our values. Ronald Reagan was the best. He spoke our language, he fought for our values, he was effective and dynamic, and he changed things in government on our behalf.
Ronald Reagan allowed us to relax and focus on our work, our families, our friends, and our interests. He allowed us to live without being bothered as much by politics.
It was similar with retaking the House and Senate in 1994. People were in power who we felt were fighting for us. We could listen to Limbaugh, read some issues of National Review or Reason Magazine, and mostly feel like we were on a better trajectory.
But now… now we have to pay attention. We have to worry – really worry – about the direction of our country. In the past, we could be annoyed at the media’s bias; now we are furious with their active complicity in deception. We have to pay attention – really pay attention – to the catastrophic actions that are being taken by our federal government.
And it’s personal. Just look at what Ken Salazar has done to a decades old Oyster business in California. He is forcing them to close completely, and to remove all of the oysters they have been growing for decades… in 90 days. All of the people who live and work right there, who have built lives around this business, have to find new homes and new jobs; and 40% of California’s oyster production will cease to exist – all by the whim of federal bureaucrats.
We can get upset about foreign policy, we can worry about general principles of economics, and rue the intrusion of greater federal regulations, but this can sometimes be ignored or distracted from our attention because it is abstract, minimally invasive, or distant.
But now we are seeing significant actions by this government that tangibly and directly destroy the lives and livelihood of American citizens; maybe people you know; maybe you.
In this sense, Michelle Obama’s arrogant statement in 2008 at UCLA has come true.
We who value individual liberty are now required to work… because the left is working intensively and amassing greater power.
We have to shed our cynicism… meaning that we need to look at what matters to us, what we love, what we value, and take them seriously.
We need to put down our divisions… We all want freedom, but if I pressed you, I’ll bet that we could find at least one exception that you would make: maybe you support the Patriot Act because it protects us, even though it allows police to write their own warrants, violating a key tenet of the Constitution. Maybe you support drug prohibition, because drugs do such great harm.
These specific issues divide us, and limit our effectiveness, and we cannot afford that. We can certainly talk about them, and disagree about them, but they should not make enemies of us; not now.
We cannot afford to be isolated, or stay in our comfort zones… We should mostly live our lives, of course. I write about that all the time. Find the actions that you can take that are effective and moral, and don’t waste time worrying or dwelling on what you cannot do. Spending time on what you cannot do is a waste of time; but doing nothing is not the alternative.
We are forced to become better, and to engage… Go to a City Council Meeting and speak up. Join Toastmasters and practice speaking so that you are able to speak up effectively. Write a letter to the editor, or a book. Take a writing class so you get better at that skill. Practice ways of speaking effectively and benevolently to friends and acquaintances; when they bring up politics, become skilled at asking them to examine their views in a friendly, persuasive manner.
Learn your principles; study the Constitution (Hillsdale College offers two free courses on the Constitution; form a study group with friends), and the economic and philosophical underpinnings of our Republic.
Barack Obama, and the entire mass of the profoundly passionate, activist left will not let us go back to our lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed… They have been growing their power and learning to be effective at what’s most important to them over the past century. They have been paying close attention to what works and what does not.
We have been working and living and loving, as we should be doing. But we need to awaken, to understand the depths of our supremely revolutionary principles, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and that governments are instituted among men deriving their just power from the consent of the governed – that’s us.
And that means that we have work to do to keep our freedom. Our founding principles are radical. They have transformed the conception of government and freedom from the roots. We cannot afford those roots to be drowned and rotted, killing the tree of liberty with our complacence.
We are not actually conservative by any stretch of the imagination – that is a mistaken moniker that does our cause a disservice. It is the progressives who are the conservatives. They want to maintain their status quo, and to ossify the tired European ideals of centralized government power, Bismark’s Welfare State, and Rousseau’s dehumanizing ideal of the general will.
We are radicals, we are the sons and daughters of liberty. The founders of our movement pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor so that we might continue the revolution in human freedom, dynamism, and innovation that they started for us over two hundred years ago.
Whatever Obama’s intentions were when his wife gave that speech back in 2008, the consequences are that those of us who value liberty have been forced to awaken to our revolutionary heritage. Maybe we needed such a crisis in order to understand that. In that sense, we should thank Michelle Obama for giving us advanced warning.
What do you want to make happen in your life this year? What habits do you need to establish in order to be more effective and happy in your life? How will you go about learning those habits, and creating your best life?
I asked this question last earlier; this week I’d like to open that question up to include loved ones for whom you would like to offer support.
Changing habits is simple but not easy. There are strategies that are effective, and ways of thinking about your situation that are empowering. One of the main elements of making positive changes in your life is to have an ally, a guide, a coach.
Over the next year, do you want to help someone you love to make some significant positive moves toward this vision? Let’s arrange a free phone call and see if working together would be what they (or you) need to get going on these dreams and goals. There is absolutely no obligation; the worst that can happen is that we have a nice talk. E-mail me at [email protected], or call at (831) 464-3374.
Ps: my rates will be going up a bit in January, but you can lock in a block of time now at this year’s lower rates.
I have been honored to have been entrusted with this task many times over the years. Here’s what a couple of folks have said about it (more here):
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