Tuesday, June 18, 2013
The Virtue of Gratitude. By Peter Wehner. Commentary, June 14, 2013.
To my mind, conservatism is gratitude. Conservatives tend to begin from gratitude for what is good and what works in our society and then strive to build on it, while liberals tend to begin from outrage at what is bad and broken and seek to uproot it.
You need both, because some of what is good about our world is irreplaceable and has to be guarded, while some of what is bad is unacceptable and has to be changed. We should never forget that the people who oppose our various endeavors and argue for another way are well intentioned too, even when they’re wrong, and that they’re not always wrong.
But we can also never forget what moves us to gratitude, and so what we stand for and defend: the extraordinary cultural inheritance we have; the amazing country built for us by others and defended by our best and bravest; America’s unmatched potential for lifting the poor and the weak; the legacy of freedom—of ordered liberty—built up over centuries of hard work.
We value these things not because they are triumphant and invincible but because they are precious and vulnerable, because they weren’t fated to happen, and they’re not certain to survive. They need us—and our gratitude for them should move us to defend them and to build on them.
That’s not to say that conservatives are never outraged, of course. We’ve had a lot of reason to be outraged lately. But it tends to be when we think the legacy and promise we cherish are threatened, rather than when some burning ambition is frustrated.
Conservatives often begin from gratitude because we start from modest expectations of human affairs—we know that people are imperfect, and fallen, and weak; that human knowledge and power are not all they’re cracked up to be; and we’re enormously impressed by the institutions that have managed to make something great of this imperfect raw material. So we want to build on them because we don’t imagine we could do better starting from scratch.
Liberals often begin from outrage because they have much higher expectations—maybe even utopian expectations—about the perfectibility of human things and the potential of human knowledge and power. They’re often willing to ignore tradition and to push aside institutions that channel generations of wisdom because they think we can do better on our own.
This can sometimes leave conservatives feeling like we are the brakes on American life, while people on the left hold the steering wheel. Like they push for their idea of progress and we just want to go a little more slowly. But that’s a serious mistake.
The American idea of progress is the tradition that we’re defending. It is made possible precisely by sustaining our deep ties to the ideals of liberty, and equality, and human dignity expressed in our founding and our institutions. The great moral advances in our history have involved the vindication of those principles—have involved America becoming more like itself.
And in any society, the task of sustaining those kinds of institutions for the next generation is the essential task—the irreplaceable precondition for everything else. That is the work first and foremost of families, and of communities. It can also be the work of educators, and of legislators. The work of democratic capitalism and of our constitutional order.
They are all connected by the need to sustain the great gift that is our country, and when we fail to see them as connected—when for instance we think we can advance our economic agenda at the expense of our concerns about the culture—we risk losing that gift altogether.
Of course it is sometimes essential to push the envelope of those traditions when they become stifling, and to make sure that the past is not an undue burden on the future. But that is always a reactive or oppositional effort. It is never the essence, and could never be more important than the work of making sure that the foundations of American life—our free society, economy, and government; our culture of virtue—are sustained.
Without those, there is no future. The work of preserving them is therefore not passive work, it’s not restraint; it is the active work of keeping our society alive and thriving. It’s not a brake, it’s the very engine of the American story.
MSNBC Panel Suggests Racist Motivation by Pro-lifers, Goal of “Reproducing Whiteness.” By Brad Wilmouth.
Invoking race in the abortion debate. Video. The O’Reilly Factor. Fox News, June 18, 2013.
New Republican effort to regulate women’s bodies. Video. Melissa Harris-Perry. MSNBC, June 15, 2013. Salamishah Tillet comment on white supremacy starts at 7:45 in video.
Well, I think, the Census just released data, so part of it is the changing racial demographics in the United States. For the first time in American history, children born under the age of five are racial, the majority of them are racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S.
So I think that there’s a kind of moral panic, a fear of the end of whiteness that we’ve been seeing a long time in that I think, you know, Obama’s ascension as President kind of symbolizes to a certain degree. And so I think this is one response to that sense that there’s a decreasing white majority in the country and that women's bodies and white women’s bodies in particular are obviously a crucial way of reproducing whiteness, white supremacy, white privilege. And so I think it’s just a kind of clamping down on women’s bodies, in particular white women's bodies, even though women of color are really caught in the fray.
Rick Santorum: Why Mitt Romney didn’t win. By James Hoffman. Politico, June 13, 2013.
Rick Santorum has had a hard time getting in the discussion about 2016. The deep bench of Republican contenders for the next presidential election has moved the unofficial runner up in the 2012 GOP contest to the party’s back burner. Most of the media seems to think that with Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan in the conversation, why bother listening to the guy who won 11 primaries and caucuses while giving Mitt Romney a run for his money a year ago? Santorum, who managed to overcome the same media indifference and skepticism throughout the winter and spring of 2012, is probably not going to do as well next time around. But he still has an important message for a party that has spent the last several months debating why Barack Obama beat them. Speaking yesterday at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Washington, Santorum returned to a favorite theme during the last campaign: don’t ignore the working class.
Most Republicans have already accepted the truth of the two conclusions that both conservative activists and mainstream establishment types agree are the primary lessons of 2012: a. don’t use abortion and rape in the same sentence (call it the “Todd Akin rule”); and b. parties that oppose the excesses of the liberal welfare state shouldn’t nominate millionaire Wall Street executives (the “Mitt Romney rule”). While some on the right are still having trouble with the Akin rule, fortunately for the GOP, all of their likely 2016 contenders are officeholders, not hedge fund operators. But Santorum’s message goes farther than mere biography and points out why the convention theme that delighted most Republicans fell flat with the rest of the country.
Amid all the back and forth about what went wrong in 2012, no other Republican has criticized the Tampa Convention’s emphasis on a critique of President Obama’s infamous “You didn’t build that” comment. But Santorum understands that as much as the GOP’s paean to capitalism and individual initiative was correct and highly satisfying for conservatives, it also reinforced the Democratic attempt to smear Republicans as tools of the rich and inimitable to the interests of the middle class and workers.
As Politico notes:
“One after another, they talked about the business they had built. But not a single—not a single —factory worker went out there,” Santorum told a few hundred conservative activists at an “after-hours session” of the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Washington. “Not a single janitor, waitress or person who worked in that company! We didn’t care about them. You know what? They built that company too! And we should have had them on that stage.”
When all you do is talk to people who are owners, talk to folks who are ‘Type As’ who want to succeed economically, we’re talking to a very small group of people,” he said. “No wonder they don’t think we care about them. No wonder they don’t think we understand them. Folks, if we’re going to win, you just need to think about who you talk to in your life.”
Trying to carve out a role as a leading populist in the 2016 field, Santorum insisted that Republicans must “talk to the folks who are worried about the next paycheck,” not the CEOs.
The Tea Party movement protests helped win the 2010 midterms for Republicans because they were an expression of grass roots discontent about spending and taxing. But running for president requires more than just opposition to liberal plans. Candidates not only need to say what they are for but how their plans will affect the lives of working people. Much of the middle and working class embrace values of hard work and patriotism that might incline them to vote for Republicans so long as they feel GOP candidates care about their wellbeing.
There were a lot of reasons why Republicans failed in 2012. Perhaps even a perfect GOP candidate and campaign would not have been enough to persuade Americans to make the first African-American a one-term president. But the Republican failure to prevent the Democrats from seizing the mantle of the middle and working classes ensured their defeat.
The centrality of social conservatism in Santorum’s political personality will probably always make it impossible for him to win the Republican nomination, let alone actually be elected president. With a whole new class of attractive and dynamic GOP candidates set to run in 2016, it’s hard to imagine how he will be able to duplicate his unlikely surge in the last go round. But instead of ignoring him, Republicans should be listening to Santorum’s critique of their party. If they don’t, all of the non-millionaires lining up to be the nominee won’t get any closer to the Oval Office than Romney did.
Why Palestinians Block Wall Changes. By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, June 13, 2013.
The dispute between the Women of the Wall and Orthodox authorities is a significant issue that can poison the relationship between Israel and the vast majority of American Jews who affiliate with non-Orthodox denominations. But the PA’s pronouncement is a reminder that the real fight in Jerusalem is not between Jews. So long as Palestinians are determined to reverse the verdict of history and return Jews to a subordinate status in their ancient capital, the spat between Jewish factions will have to wait.
Most liberal American Jews have two main demands of Israel: They want it to recognize the non-Orthodox denominations, and they want it to make peace with the Palestinians, right now. The latter demand isn’t confined to fringe anti-Israel activists; it’s routinely voiced by long-time Israel supporters like Rabbi Eric Yoffie or Leon Wieseltier. So I’d like all these Jews to seriously consider this question: When these two primary demands conflict, what do you do–capitulate to the PA in the interests of “peace” and give up on being able to pray at the Western Wall in your own fashion, or insist on your rights at the Wall at the cost of further antagonizing the Palestinians, for whom modifications of the Western Wall Plaza are no less objectionable than new outposts in the heart of the West Bank?
Dilemmas no less wrenching confront Israel every day in dealing with the Palestinians, but because they don’t affect American Jews directly, the latter are often too quick to accuse Israel of being intransigent over a trivial point it should just concede in the name of peace. They deplore Israel’s refusal to agree to a border roughly along the 1967 lines, not understanding the enormous security risks this creates; they deplore Israel’s refusal to release murderers to woo the Palestinians to the negotiating table, not understanding the major role freed prisoners have repeatedly played in fomenting new terrorism; they deplore Israel’s reluctance to redivide Jerusalem, not understanding how unlikely it is that the city would remain open afterward, or how devastating a repartition would therefore be.
American Jews won’t understand the details of these issues any better after confronting their own Palestinian dilemma over the Western Wall. But just maybe, they’ll understand that dealing with the Palestinians isn’t quite so simple as they seem to think it is. And if so, the Palestinians will have done a great service to Israel’s relationship with American Jewry.
RUSH: You know what, it’s not the politics. Jesse, what you’re illustrating is that it’s all the perception.
CALLER: I think so, right.
RUSH: Everything you think is wrong, everything you think is the result of erroneous, lying, stinking media stuff, and propaganda put out by the Democrats.
CALLER: I’m sorry. I would say that, I would agree with you, but, see, I’m like this. I know you call a lot of people, especially on the liberal side, low-information voters, but, you know what, I listen to Fox, you, Sean Hannity. I listen to your show from start to finish every day for the last four or five years.
RUSH: Alright. Good for you.
CALLER: I watch O’Reilly and Hannity on Fox. So I listen to both sides and I watch a little MSNBC, and I listen to a little Al Sharpton and –
RUSH: No wonder you’re confused.
CALLER: I just get both sides of the story before I make my decision.
RUSH: Sometimes one side of the story is an out-and-out lie. In fact, most of the time, one side of the story is an out-and-out lie. In fact, most of the stories you hear the Democrats tell they don’t even talk about themselves. All they’re doing is ripping Republicans, telling distorted lies about conservatism or Republicans or they're trying to impugn the character of individual Republican candidates or what have you.
CALLER: Right, but that goes back and forth. That’s both sides doing it, and I know that’s true. But I think that people have to make a determination. They can’t just listen to liberal stations and shows and then make an opinion without listening to both sides. Me, I do both, and then I make the decision for myself. This is me personally.
RUSH: Okay, let me ask you a question with this “both sides” business. I’m interpreting that to mean that you don’t know what you think on most things so you’ve –
CALLER: I do.
RUSH: – gotta listen to this or you’ve gotta listen to that before you make up your mind.
CALLER: Well, I think you should hear both sides of the story or both sides of an opinion before you choose a side or you make a –
CALLER: – you know, you form an opinion based on both sides’ information.
RUSH: Nope. I don’t. The liberals lie. I do not form my opinions on what both sides say. I form my opinions on what I know to be right. I form my opinion –
RUSH: – on what I know to be what I believe in terms of principles.
CALLER: Liberals always lie?
RUSH: I do not have to listen to Democrats to know what I believe.
CALLER: Well, so are you saying liberals always lying and conservatives don’t?
RUSH: For the most part, that’s a pretty safe bet.
CALLER: Well, that’s kind of closed-minded, Rush.
RUSH: No, it’s not closed-minded. What it is is profoundly informed. I know who the Democrats are. I know how they campaign. I know how they poison people’s minds. I know how they lie about me. I know how they lie about everything I believe. I know how they keep people in fear. I know how they want to control people. I know how they want people to believe things that aren't true. I know everything about them. I know more about them than they do.
CALLER: Both sides do that, though.
RUSH: That’s a straw man argument. Then both sides are disqualified and you should find something – if you’re gonna say, “Well, both sides do that and both sides do this and both sides –” how do you ever decide what you believe?
CALLER: You have to make a determination for yourself which side is –
RUSH: That’s what I’m saying. I’ve done that. I’m 62 years old. I’ve made the determinations. I know who the skunks are. I know who are the people I trust and believe. I know more than that, I know the things that I believe to be true. I know the principles that I believe and swear by. I know the Constitution of this country. I love it. I know that this is a constitutional republic. I know the Democrat Party doesn’t like the Constitution. The Democrat Party –
CALLER: Oh, we love the Constitution.
RUSH: No, Jesse, I’m telling you the truth. Now, you can go listen to Al Sharpton tell you what he thinks about what I just said –
CALLER: Yeah, but Al Sharpton is super, super-duper far left, so you can’t take everything he says at heart.
RUSH: That’s exactly right, Jess. So why are you wasting time over there on MSNBC?
CALLER: Well, no, like I said, I’m one that listens to both sides. I listen to both sides of the argument, and I make a determination for myself who’s lying or who’s stretching the truth a little bit.
RUSH: All right, let’s play a little game on this “both sides” business.
RUSH: IRS targeting Tea Parties. The Democrats say, no, no, no, it didn’t happen, it was an accident. The people, excessive exuberance in there in the IRS on a couple employees’ side. The Republicans say no, it was a purposeful effort to suppress conservative participation in the election by denying them tax-exempt status so they couldn’t raise money. They couldn’t create get-out-the-vote efforts, and it was an effort by the Obama administration to limit and suppress Republican votes. Those are the two sides of the issue. What do you think?
CALLER: I agree with you on that. I’m on your side on that. I think people at the IRS did do this on purpose. Now, the part I don’t disagree with, I don’t think Obama picked up the phone and called them and told them to do it.
RUSH: Right. You know what? I agree with you wholeheartedly. Do you know why? He doesn’t have to. He has people in place who already know what he wants. There isn’t gonna be a smoking gun memo from Obama saying, “I want you people to target the Tea Party. I want you to make sure they don’t raise money. I want you to make sure they don’t vote.” The people he put there don’t want conservatives to succeed. Everybody that Obama has working in these positions is a miniature Obama, doing everything that he wants done because they want to please him. So he doesn't have to tell ’em.
CALLER: But you don’t think Obama actually told someone to tell the IRS to do this, are you saying that or are you –
RUSH: No, I’m telling you he doesn’t have to. All he’s gotta do is hire people who agree with him and turn ’em loose. He doesn’t have to tell anybody.
CALLER: Okay. So then we’re both in agreeance it was wrong, but I don’t think that he actually directly picked up a phone or actually directly told someone to have this done on purpose?
RUSH: Wait a minute. Does that mean to you that he wishes it didn’t happen?
CALLER: Well, no, I don’t, because I looked at polls from a year out –
RUSH: See, this is – (crosstalk)
CALLER: – Romney, he was always five to seven points down.
RUSH: Jesse, this is the thing. This is it in a nutshell. You are seeking to exempt Obama from what the IRS did, his IRS.
CALLER: Not necessarily. Without proof, yes, I am.
RUSH: Because you don’t think he called them and told them to do it.
CALLER: Or directed someone to have them do it. He didn’t have to.
RUSH: That’s right, he didn’t have to. He puts like-minded people in position who will do it without having to be told. Eric Holder is at the Justice Department doing everything Obama wants done. Obama probably never has to speak to him. Whatever’s going on at the NSA in a spying scandal, they’re doing everything Obama wants done. IRS, ditto; FDA, ditto, it doesn’t matter. Obama puts people in those positions purposely, because they are him. He has an agenda. He wants it accomplished. He doesn’t have time to meet with everybody. He's not gonna create a smoking gun memo telling them what to do so that nobody can ever prove it like you're trying to exonerate him here. This is where your own intelligence guided by experience has to inform you. And looking at both sides of this isn’t gonna get you anywhere. You have to have the courage to admit that one side is wrong. And 99 times out of a hundred it’s gonna be the left that’s wrong.
Now, a couple things here on Jesse, ladies and gentlemen. Jesse, I know you’re still there and I appreciate the call. I had to get out ’cause I was running way long in the segment, but Obama hasn’t fired anybody for what they did in any of these scandals. You might be saying Lois Lerner. No, she’s still working, just from home. Nobody’s been punished for what they did. If you don’t like the fact that liberals lie more than conservatives do, put it this way.
They may believe everything they believe. They’re dead wrong. It’s been demonstrably proven in so many things. Economically, culturally, they are wrong. But the fact remains in all of this stuff, you'll get . . . What did Jesse say? He said he voted for Bush 2004 until he heard that Republicans were suppressing the black vote. This is why the Democrats lie. They have to lie to keep people on their reservation. Here’s an African-American who liked Bush, and he gave us the reasons.
He liked No Child Left Behind. He liked some of the Bush stimulus. He liked Bush’s tax cuts. But then he heard somebody say that the Republicans are suppressing the black vote. Now, the fact of the matter is, blacks run the heavily black districts in every inner city in this country. There is no way . . . Blacks run every district in Detroit. They run every district for the most part in New York. There are exceptions there, but whether they’re black or not, they’re ultraleftists.
There’s no way that the Republican Party can suppress the black vote in demonstrably black districts. It isn’t physically possible. How are they gonna do it? Are they gonna go in there in these districts that are run by blacks and somehow sabotage the buses? No, it’s the Democrats that did that in Milwaukee by slashing the tires. How are these Republicans suppressing the black vote? There’s no evidence for it. It’s just a lie that the Democrats tell that sticks because of other lies they’ve told before that.
The big lie is that Republicans are racists. So African-Americans hear this for 50 years, and then the Democrats come out – Jesse Jackson, Sharpton, whoever – and starts talking about Republicans suppressing the black vote? “Oh, yeah? Well, I’ll show you! I voted for Bush but no more.” That’s how they do it. How do Republicans suppress the black vote? How are the Republicans stopping abortions? There aren’t any abortion clinics being shut down other than these murder factories that you can count on one hand, Kermit Gosnell and the like.
People are believing myths.
They’re easy to believe because they’ve been told for 50 years.
La.’s First Black Republican Legislator Since Reconstruction Explains Why He Switched. By Andrew Johnson. National Review Online, June 18, 2013.
Elbert Guillory: Democrats have ignored problems facing the black community. By Caroline May. The Daily Caller, June 19, 2013.
Amazing Message from a Former Democrat. By Rush Limbaugh. RushLimbaugh.com, June 18, 2013. Audio at Daily Rushbo.
Elbert Guillory website.
See also The Daily Caller, Human Events.
Hello, my name is Elbert Lee Guillory, and I’m the senator for the twenty-fourth district right here in beautiful Louisiana. Recently I made what many are referring to as a ‘bold decision’ to switch my party affiliation to the Republican Party. I wanted to take a moment to explain why I became a Republican, and also to explain why I don’t think it was a bold decision at all. It is the right decision — not only for me — but for all my brothers and sisters in the black community.
You see, in recent history the Democrat Party has created the illusion that their agenda and their policies are what’s best for black people. Somehow it’s been forgotten that the Republican Party was founded in 1854 as an abolitionist movement with one simple creed: that slavery is a violation of the rights of man.
Frederick Douglass called Republicans the “Party of freedom and progress,” and the first Republican president was Abraham Lincoln, the author of the Emancipation Proclamation. It was the Republicans in Congress who authored the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments giving former slaves citizenship, voting rights, and due process of law.
The Democrats on the other hand were the Party of Jim Crow. It was Democrats who defended the rights of slave owners. It was the Republican President Dwight Eisenhower who championed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, but it was Democrats in the Senate who filibustered the bill.
You see, at the heart of liberalism is the idea that only a great and powerful big government can be the benefactor of social justice for all Americans. But the left is only concerned with one thing — control. And they disguise this control as charity. Programs such as welfare, food stamps, these programs aren’t designed to lift black Americans out of poverty, they were always intended as a mechanism for politicians to control black the black community.
The idea that blacks, or anyone for that matter, need the government to get ahead in life is despicable. And even more important, this idea is a failure. Our communities are just as poor as they’ve always been. Our schools continue to fail children. Our prisons are filled with young black men who should be at home being fathers. Our self-initiative and our self-reliance have been sacrificed in exchange for allegiance to our overseers who control us by making us dependent on them.
Sometimes I wonder if the word freedom is tossed around so frequently in our society that it has become a cliché.
The idea of freedom is complex and it is all-encompassing. It’s the idea that the economy must remain free of government persuasion. It’s the idea that the press must operate without government intrusion. And it’s the idea that the emails and phone records of Americans should remain free from government search and seizure. It’s the idea that parents must be the decision makers in regards to their children's education — not some government bureaucrat.
But most importantly, it is the idea that the individual must be free to pursue his or her own happiness free from government dependence and free from government control. Because to be truly free is to be reliant on no one other than the author of our destiny. These are the ideas at the core of the Republican Party, and it is why I am a Republican.
So my brothers and sisters of the American community, please join with me today in abandoning the government plantation and the Party of disappointment. So that we may all echo the words of one Republican leader who famously said, “free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”
Catholics Fire Back at Obama over School Comments: “Anti-Faith, Secular Agenda Shamelessly on Full Display.” By Ben Shapiro. Breitbart, June 20, 2013.
American Catholics for Religious Freedom, quoted by Shapiro:
President Obama’s anti-faith, secular agenda was shamefully on full display yesterday when he told the young people of Northern Ireland that Catholic education and other faith-based schools were divisive and an obstacle to peace. All Americans of faith should be outraged by these comments which clearly telegraph the President’s belief system and are in fact at their core even anti-American.
Secular progressives like President Obama ignore the truth that faith-based education is a component of the Religious Freedom guaranteed by the Constitution. He can’t bear the thought that Catholic and parochial schools not only teach important values but consistently produce better educational results at lower cost than America’s failing public schools. The President’s troubling values are showing here in a way that demonstrate just how dangerous this Administration is and how committed it is to eroding the rights of all people of faith.
It’s time Americans stood up for Religious Freedom, for the U.S. Constitution and against President Obama’s radical views about the place of faith in American life.
President Obama’s Belfast Blarney. By Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison. American Thinker, June 21, 2013.
Barack Obama “Savages” Catholic Education. By Jeannie DeAngelis. American Thinker, June 20, 2013.
From the start, no one was naïve enough to believe that peace would be anything but a long journey. Yeats once wrote “Peace comes dropping slow.” But that doesn’t mean our efforts to forge a real and lasting peace should come dropping slow. This work is as urgent now as it has ever been, because there’s more to lose now than there has ever been.
In today’s hyper-connected world, what happens here has an impact on lives far from these green shores. If you continue your courageous path toward a permanent peace, and all the social and economic benefits that have come with it, that won’t just be good for you, it will be good for this entire island. It will be good for the United Kingdom. It will be good for Europe. It will be good for the world.
We need you to get this right. And what’s more, you set an example for those who seek a peace of their own. Because beyond these shores, right now, in scattered corners of the world, there are people living in the grip of conflict -- ethnic conflict, religious conflict, tribal conflicts -- and they know something better is out there. And they’re groping to find a way to discover how to move beyond the heavy hand of history, to put aside the violence. They’re studying what you’re doing. And they’re wondering, perhaps if Northern Ireland can achieve peace, we can, too. You’re their blueprint to follow. You’re their proof of what is possible -- because hope is contagious. They’re watching to see what you do next.
Now, some of that is up to your leaders. As someone who knows firsthand how politics can encourage division and discourage cooperation, I admire the Northern Ireland Executive and the Northern Ireland Assembly all the more for making power-sharing work. That’s not easy to do. It requires compromise, and it requires absorbing some pain from your own side. I applaud them for taking responsibility for law enforcement and for justice, and I commend their effort to “Building a United Community” – important next steps along your transformational journey.
Because issues like segregated schools and housing, lack of jobs and opportunity – symbols of history that are a source of pride for some and pain for others – these are not tangential to peace; they’re essential to it. If towns remain divided – If Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs – if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear or resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division. It discourages cooperation.
Ultimately, peace is just not about politics. It’s about attitudes; about a sense of empathy; about breaking down the divisions that we create for ourselves in our own minds and our own hearts that don’t exist in any objective reality, but that we carry with us generation after generation.
And I know, because America, we, too, have had to work hard over the decades, slowly, gradually, sometimes painfully, in fits and starts, to keep perfecting our union. A hundred and fifty years ago, we were torn open by a terrible conflict. Our Civil War was far shorter than The Troubles, but it killed hundreds of thousands of our people. And, of course, the legacy of slavery endured for generations.
Even a century after we achieved our own peace, we were not fully united. When I was a boy, many cities still had separate drinking fountains and lunch counters and washrooms for blacks and whites. My own parents’ marriage would have been illegal in certain states. And someone who looked like me often had a hard time casting a ballot, much less being on a ballot.
But over time, laws changed, and hearts and minds changed, sometimes driven by courageous lawmakers, but more often driven by committed citizens. Politicians oftentimes follow rather than lead. And so, especially young people helped to push and to prod and to protest, and to make common cause with those who did not look like them. And that transformed America -- so that Malia and Sasha’s generation, they have different attitudes about differences and race than mine and certainly different from the generation before that. And each successive generation creates a new space for peace and tolerance and justice and fairness.
And while we have work to do in many ways, we have surely become more tolerant and more just, more accepting, more willing to see our diversity in America not as something to fear, but as something to welcome because it's a source of our national strength.
Michelle Obama Ireland Trip: G8 Summit Offers First Lady, Daughters Chance To Explore European Roots. By Sam Cage. Reuters. The Huffington Post, June 17, 2013.
First Lady takes girls to Ireland to explore Irish ancestry. By Maria Puente. USA Today, June 17, 2013.
Michelle Obama’s $5 Million Ireland Visit. By Matthew Auerbach. Newsmax, June 17, 2013.
First Lady Michelle Obama claims ritzy digs during Irish visit. By Dave Boyer. Washington Times, June 17, 2013.
Michelle Obama and daughters visit Glendalough and Dalkey. By Alison Healy. The Irish Times, June 18, 2013.
Michelle Obama and daughters visit Trinity College in Ireland. Raw Video. Newsy NewsHD, June 17, 2013. YouTube. Also here.
The age of global plutocracy: Chrystia Freeland at TEDGlobal 2013. By Karen Eng. TED Blog, June 12, 2013.
Disclosure alert: I was a speaker, too. I talked about my chief obsession, soaring global income inequality, particularly at the very top of the pyramid, and the uncomfortable fact that the same forces that are enriching the global super-elite are hollowing out the middle class in the Western developed economies. Making capitalism work for everyone, and not just the plutocrats, I argued, is our most pressing political and economic problem.
Taken together, and given the gilded venue, all of these comments amount to a significant shift in tone. Charlie Robertson, the global chief economist for Renaissance Capital, the Russian-based investment bank, was moved to post on Twitter, in reaction to the TED lineup, that the “intellectual ascendancy of neo-liberalism since 70s may be in retreat.”
That is probably going too far. But we do seem to be at a turning point, or the beginning of one. Judging by this week in Edinburgh, even the winners in the global economy are beginning to realize that there are a lot of losers, too, and that that’s a problem. You might see that as too little too late; you might also see it as, at long last, a start.