The dark silhouetted trees appeared illusory, as if in a dream through the light fog, their irregular heights capping the rolling Alabama landscape on I-85 north of Montgomery. The cab's interior was awash in the soft green glow of the gauges, gadgets and screens adorning the instrument panel. Sunrise was three hours away yet, leaving a bit of quiet time to negotiate an endless supply of construction zones, and avoid haphazardly placed orange barrels while sorting through competing waves of thought and reflection.
"Patience," as Ambrose Bierce flirtatiously advised us, is, "A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue." Indeed, there are times when the distinction between virtue and despair becomes as blurred as the trees in the misty night, leaving us in search of fixed postulates toward which to navigate. There is, for example, no known record of the stone tablets descending Mt. Sinai with fine print permitting the redistributionist to violate the 8th and 10th Commandments' prohibitions against theft or covetousness, yet there are those who don the cloak of morality to lecture us that the fruit of our labor belongs to someone else and that it is the manifest destiny of the moralist to determine who exactly owns our time, our property and our lives.
How does this happen? How did we go from the 17th century philosopher John Locke's observation that:
Though the earth and all inferior creatures be common to all men, yet every man has a "property" in his own "person." This nobody has any right to but himself. The "labor" of his body and the "work" of his hands, we may say, are properly his.
To an American President who just days ago said:
…[T]he basic bargain at the heart of our economy has frayed. In fact, this trend towards growing inequality is not unique to America's market economy. Across the developed world, inequality has increased. …But this increasing inequality is most pronounced in our country, and it challenges the very essence of who we are as a people.
It's easy enough to dismiss Barack Obama's economic diagnosis as sophistry on a banana peel, since income inequality is actually most pronounced in banana republics, most notably in Latin America and the southern tip of Africa where the law means whatever (insert name of authoritarian with funny looking outfit) says it means. But we are now on that same trajectory, having gone from James Madison's reminder that, "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents," to President Obama's risible assertion that, "If you've got a business, -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."
What explains preposterousness on a cosmic scale? It seems, to this observer at any rate, that, human pride being a constant, the tendency toward self righteousness lends itself to a dangerous insularity in which an oath to uphold the Constitution, or a professed allegiance to the very law of God, is replaced by self. I was recently instructed by a person of sturdy theological credentials, for example, that for one sibling to remind another that ignoring a grieving and grievously ill parent, particularly when everyone else in the family is knocking themselves out and could use a little help, is to "do evil" because such a reminder brings pain to the sibling who prefers to view a dying parent only briefly, through emotional binoculars, and then avert their gaze elsewhere. The standard of "Honor your father and your mother," is thus replaced with the standard of self, and any who trespass against it are guilty of assailing moral rectitude of the highest order, -- a rectitude, I've noticed, that generously dispenses admonishments to others but will not accept them.
Likewise, the President sets himself as the standard of that which is right and proper, just and fair, and to the extent the Constitution intrudes on his standard, the fault lies with the Constitution and its defenders. If the people, through their elected representatives, will not acquiesce to his prescriptions and attendant intrusions on their liberty, then he will simply act through executive order or pack the courts with unaccountable jurists with the help of Senate Bag Man, Harry Reid. For the objective is not liberty, but rather the utopian designs incubated in the insular confines of the First Ego and his administration.
Last Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over 1.1 million fewer Americans are employed today than seven years ago, but that whopping number, which adds a little perspective to the lower unemployment rate, somehow missed Presidential attention. Surely income inequality is exacerbated when over a million people no longer hold down jobs, no? But empirical truth, which contradicts the supreme standard of the insular mind, must be avoided lest discomfort set in.
As the sun rises over the horizon, the fog lifts and much needed clarity returns. The President challenges us to address, "who we are as a people." Fine, then. We are a people that reversed the tide of history by declaring that free men tell the government what to do, not the other way around. Embracing the lessons of human experience, mindful of the fallen nature of all Adam's descendants, we chart our course toward the postulates of the collective wisdom of the ages, pledge our civic allegiance to our Founding principles, our ultimate allegiance to our Creator, and honor those who came before us. If that affronts the insular minds in our midst, they'll have to work that one out themselves.