Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New Times, New Leadership

Personally, I’m very glad that we have a new president. Finally, America will see an end to the hysterical messianism and hero-worship of the Bush years. Democrats, who are inherently more sensible than conservatives as it is, will be far less disappointed in their choice of president when he does disappointing things, because he isn’t going to. Partly this is because Barack Obama is too clever to do anything disappointing, and if ever he did he would speak so nicely in his own defense that everyone would forget there was ever a tizzy, and go about their days. Partly this is because he comes into national office with a great deal more experience than the previous president, who had never been president in his life before his first campaign eight years ago.

For the first time in a great while, I’m optimistic about the direction of the future of my country. With the arrival of the Obama presidency, we can begin to put the awkward Bush years in the desolate backyards of memory: not a single person I know voted for him in this election, which is a tribute to the enduring ability of the American people to learn from their mistakes.

While I’m not enough of an idealist, alas, to think that all of my ideas can be implemented in one term, or even in two, I do believe this is the beginning of a change in American culture and American politics, and in the remainder of this column I’m proposing several for the next four years. “Let us strive on to finish the work that we are in,” as Lincoln said, “with malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right.”

Candidate Obama has already promised that, under his administration, not only would Roe v. Wade be protected, but that his “first act” as president would be signing the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which would strike down the conscience clauses (clauses which allow doctors to weasel out of performing abortions) and parental consent laws of all fifty states. This is all well and good. Not only will the population of the country remain at a sustainable level, but a perpetuation – or even an advance – in current abortion policies will keep the crime rate law, and poverty to a minimum.

Donohue and Levitt have capably demonstrated that the sudden drop in crime on a national level in 1992 was a direct result of the implementation of Roe v. Wade 19 years earlier, when the people most likely to commit crimes (men between the ages of 18 and 24) would have been coming of age; and, what’s more, that states where abortion was legalized earlier showed earlier reductions in crime; and, lastly, that the states with the highest abortion rates had the steepest declines. The majority of people would probably reconsider abortion as a viable option if they knew that its primary purpose was to eliminate future criminals, so its proponents have done the right thing up to now by framing the matter as an issue of rights and choice. An Obama as honest and straightforward as the one we met in the campaign could explain to the American people the real reasons for abortion without having to rely on hoary old feminist propaganda techniques. “What’s good for the country,” he should say, “is good for everyone.”

There is a more pressing matter than universal healthcare, and that is universal, nationalized public education. We need sweeping reform of our learning facilities, where children are currently taught the “virtues” of intolerable concepts like subversion and freethinking. I propose that all students be taken from the schools they’re in and placed in tax-payer funded, government-run forced learning camps (FLCs, or “flocks”), where they can be kept at a distance from their families and all the other people in their lives who harbor radical ideas. President Obama and the Democratic Congress need to shift the primary focus of education away from math and reading and in the direction of more conducive matters such as the importance of civic pride, and allegiance to the state: students would begin every morning by saluting the national flag, and saying a few eloquent words in its honor. These forced learning camps would keep the extremist proponents of civil disobedience – Emerson, Thoreau, Helen Keller, MLK – in the curriculum, except that they would eliminate the more radical aspects of their biographies and writings, with severe penalties for students who attempted putting their teachings into practice.

President Obama doesn’t need subversives and dissenters heckling everything he does, so he should take immediate steps to insulate his office for the tasks at hand. This was one of the prouder achievements of the Bush administration, and I’m glad to see that Candidate Obama has already signaled his support for anti-heckling policies by removing anti-Obama reporters from O Force One (the official plane of his campaign). Columnists from the New York Post, the Washington Times, and the Dallas Morning News (all of whom endorsed McCain) were barred from the plane in the final week of the campaign, which indicates that Obama has a stronger will and a greater ability to lead than John McCain, who only banned celebrity reporters Joe Klein and Maureen Dowd from the Straight-talk Express (and as we can wager that both of them sort of wanted it, the evidence suggests that McCain was just being his soft and appeasing old self).

After the Democrats have established a mandatory, government-run system of education and advanced the cause of national eugenics, they should broaden the current anti-heckling policies to include the imprisonment of radical and extremist dissidents. Some people would argue that this is an infringement of free speech liberties protected by the Constitution, but what they need to understand is that a curtailment of liberties under a Democratic administration is a far, far different thing from the same curtailment under the likes of Cheney and his band of thugs. The previous administration has spent the past eight years imprisoning journalists, torturing suspected terrorists to death, declaring unlawful wars, destroying foreign foes, and foreign friends, expanding the search and seizure powers of the government, and wiretapping thousands of Americans illegally. In retrospect, it is clear that they should never have been trusted with power. This became obvious to me when Cheney successfully argued that he was a member of both the executive and legislative branches, and therefore couldn’t be prosecuted for crimes in either. One of the first questions facing the Obama administration will be whether it’s willing to do the right thing and prosecute the previous president and his party for the war crimes they committed in office.

Obama has signaled by his support for the Constitution and the rule of law that he would never run away with the powers invested in him by his office, as Bush and Cheney did. The American people can trust him not to wield dictatorial authority, and this is the reason why his very first act in office (or, presumably, his second) needs to be the jailing of extremists. By this I don’t mean religious extremists, because religious extremism tends to bloom in times of “persecution,” and past administrations have kept a good check on fundamentalists by totally ignoring them, but political and cultural extremists. Obama needs to go before the nation and explain that radical extremists threaten the integrity of our First Amendment rights by corrupting the purity of our freedom of speech. Governor Sarah Palin tolled the warning bells in the general election when she warned the American people that dissident journalists were violating her freedom of speech by asking her questions on the campaign trail; President Obama could strike a uniquely bipartisan tone, live up to his aspirations of national unity, and make an unprecedented reach across the aisle to the losing side in this election by taking up Sarah’s cause as his own.

In any society where subversion and radicalism are tolerated for any great length of time, the end result is a loss of civil liberties, as the ruling authority swoops in like an eagle to crush the radicals. This simply cannot happen in America, and we will not let it happen, not while we are free. Ring the alarum-bells throughout our mighty land, and let the people know this for a fact: if freedom of speech does not remain pure, it cannot remain free. Remember that. You remember that.