“We, the people”
President Obama’s second inaugural address was all about the “We” as in “We, the people”… An unusual thing for a president often labeled as a narcissist due to the liberal use of “me” and “I” in his speeches. He used the word 63 times by my count. The word “we” accounted for 3% of the total 2,099 in his speech.
All those uses of “we” to weave the narrative of how we have always been “We, the people” and that our salvation lies in continuing to be “We, the people.” A beautiful and lofty sentiment?
And yet, to read President Obama’s words, it’s hard not see the speech as an attempt to convince us, we, the people, to prove to us that his words, “you didn’t build that” are as self-evident as the idea that this great nation was founded on.
“For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.”
It’s disheartening and disappointing that such a grand moment as the affirmation of our constitutionally mandated peaceful transfer of executive power can be used for such petty, verbose taunting by someone who at the same time says that “We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.”
But, it’s much worse than that, really. By pretending to affirm and defend “we, the people,” Mr. Obama, in reality, sets out to redefine “we, the people.” The “we, the people” of the Declaration of Independence are individuals, each pursuing their own individual liberty and happiness. Mr. Obama’s “we, the people” are a collective “we, the people” pursuing the liberty and happiness of the community, the common good, the state, the collective. But that is okay because the president tells us that:
“we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action”. We can still be “we, the people,”
… BUT, times have changed and that has caused us to redefine “we, the people”-pretty slick!
I once lived in a place where the “we, the people” was collective and “we, the people’s” leader decided what was collectively good for the collective and it worries me to hear an American President use this same kind of language. Specially when in the same speech he says:
“Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time – but it does require us to act in our time”
…You see, the collective doesn’t like to debate silly old notions about the role of government – that just gets in the way of progress. You want to see that kind of progress go to Havana.
Forward … to The People’s Republic of America!
God help us…