A recent commentary by Charles Krauthhammer attempted to negate the message contained in a recent speech by President Obama. Krauthhammer did this by misinterpreting and thus redefining the meaning of the ideas presented by the President. This is the current preferred technique of the political right, the purpose of which is to invalidate the thoughts of those who oppose their self serving definition of the purpose of American government. This shabby trick of willfully denying the context and thus changing the meaning of what someone says to create a straw man of their own description and then knocking it down, in intellectually vacant and diminishes the credibility those who use it.
In his speech President Obama pointed out that a great deal of the success of anyone in this country is in part due to things such as our publicly funded; universal education system, highly develop infrastructure, scientific research, the internet, etc. When the President said “people who owned factories didn’t build them”; it was the infrastructure et al that they hadn’t built he was obviously referring to, not their businesses. However by changing the meaning of what the President said, the collective of the right created a false target of an idea, which they could then pillory. But denial of the truth by redefining what is actually said is not a good paradigm of a technique upon which to base the argument about what the government should or should not be doing.
Looking at something from an extreme angle so as to exclude some aspect of the reality of things is another piece of the denial paradigm that the administration’s opponents use. Putting together selective parts of long established entitlement systems of this country and referring to them as unwarranted “hand-outs” while ignoring the many other government give away programs such as unnecessary industry subsidies, unwise regulation exemptions and the tens of thousands of pages of tax breaks, allowances and exclusions that let specific businesses and people keep what should really be billions in collected tax revenue; is a self-serving blindness that renders the political right’s argument which claims a preference for smaller government absurd and invalid.
Dismissing or discounting publicly funded projects that benefit the uber-wealthy at least as much as they benefit the rest of the citizenry, as neutral constants in a developed economy, by citing the ancient Roman Empire, is another fantasy example. Comparing a society that “succeeded” through conquest, plunder and slavery to our own democracy based on collective freedom is comparing apples and stones. Rome built its wealth and in turn infrastructure on the blood and bones of those they vanquished or destroyed. Overcoming the shameful experiences of our treatment of the Native Americans and slavery, we have worked hard for one hundred and fifty years to create a society that deserves to be respected for its egalitarian ideals and practical implementation of those ideas. A twenty-first century America which is striving to behave as a society in which each and every person is treated with the dignity, respect and protection they lawfully deserve by their fellow citizens and their government should be respected by anyone who values the meaning behind the words in the U.S. Constitution. We should not be ridiculed by referring to us as an undesirable “collective”; implying those of significant means should not be required to contribute to a government that is trying to assist those whose opportunities have been impeded by past and present injustices. The social evolution from a Roman society or a 1776 society based slavery and a class system that determined citizenship, to a universally equal criterion for being a full-fledged member of society, is something to be admired and highly valued.
Denying the importance of all the things we have collectively created as a nation to enable Henry Ford and Steve Jobs, as well as the not famous hardworking people of this country, to succeed is denying the obvious and true. To not credit the legitimacy and value of this concept of shared responsibility for providing all these things necessary for shared success is burying one’s head in the sand. Denial is not a very good paradigm on which to base a political position, intellectual argument, personal point of view, or anything else for that matter.