Certainly his words are offensive enough to business builders and owners; however, they go beyond mere insult. They go beyond the implication that the collective trumps the individual. They go beyond the trampling of the American dream. They even go beyond a direct attack on personal achievement and the fluid hierarchy that have characterized the American middle class.
His core message, combined with other red-light indicators of a radically leftist political philosophy which includes wealth redistribution, is the message of the almighty and sovereign State:
“We own you.”
Without the State, you are nothing. All your abilities, your intellect, your individuality, your work, your dreams, and the fruits of your labor would never happen without the federal government. Where would you be without us? We allowed you, along with the rest of the amorphous and indistinguishable masses constituting the collective, to thrive.
You owe everything to the State.
What you eat, where you sleep, and how you earn your daily bread are because of the State’s munificence. Everything is a gift to you from the State, in which you live and move and have your being.
Do you really think you as a mere individual built and therefore own your business? Do you think you are entitled to “your” profits? We built the infrastructure that supports your endeavor; therefore, we can tax you as we please. Your initiative and hard work are merely part of the entire labor pool, a small slice of the community of others.
Add to the not so subliminal message of the Roanoke speech an even more important message: courtesy of ObamaCare, the State owns your conscience.
Does your church think it owns its faith-based institutions — schools, hospitals, soup kitchens, shelters for the homeless? Does it feel it should decide the philosophical and ethical structure of its institutions without interference from the state? Are your church and its para-church organizations and institutions protected by the First Amendment?
Thanks to the ObamaCare mandate that overrules the ethical structure of all private institutions, they are the State’s to rule as it sees fit. Your conscience and your God do not matter. We can overrule your conscientious objections concerning matters like providing abortifacients to your employees and tax you out of existence if you don’t obey our mandates. (For the excessively punitive measures to be taken against non-conforming religious institutions, see Bridget Johnson’s excellent article on the subject, found here.)
In brief, you, dear individual American, are nothing. Your businesses, your churches, and your organizations are nothing. The State is everything. The State rules.
It has been a while since the antique philosophy of the absolute divine right of kings and/or the State has been posited as a positive good. It’s been a long time since Thomas Hobbes‘ argument that an absolute sovereign state could cure the innate tendency toward individualistic selfishness of human beings has been put forth.
While Louis XIV may have loved the idea, certainly the arguments for a sovereign state and ruler have had no place in America, land of the free and home of the brave.
For in the current administration’s words and actions, we are seeing a trend that portends the complete inversion of the relationship of the American government and the individual citizen as outlined by its foundational documents, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. We are being told that the individual owes his existence to the State instead of the State owing its existence to the people.
The claims and actions of our current administration and its radically left allies are nothing new, but they have been a constant of history. The justifications for state control by omniscient elite have been the same for millennia. Egotistical rulers, reinforced by powerful bureaucracies and armies of the governments they control, are all clones, be they dead and in the antique past or living in the here and now. In fact, what we are seeing is a potential return to the governmental standards of antiquity. The neo-Assyrian, statist impulses that harassed the entire twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, be they pale imitators of fascism, communism, or any other “ism” which favors the almighty State, currently are rising right here in America.
We are seeing authoritarian political philosophies recycled and retrofitted for the consumption of Americans. The radical left and our president demote builders of businesses and followers of the American dream, building Washington into a virtual Babylon. And yes, they should be given the credit for building the American Babylon, the symbol of fundamental transformation into authoritarianism.
Those reckless and ultimately wrecking builders might want to take heed of a Hebrew story about the fate of a narcissistic ruler, creator, and builder of one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, the fabulous “Hanging Gardens of Babylon.” Looking out over that fabled and corrupt city, King Nebuchadnezzar the Great of Babylon thought to himself, “I built all this.” As the story relates, he reflected and said, as he looked out across the skyline, “Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.”
(Note that hubristic and narcissistic rulers all love the “I” word.)
To continue the story: as both penalty and cure for his vainglorious ego, the great king grew mad with power. Eventually, he became convinced he was an ox. His former and probably grateful underlings literally turned him out to pasture, where he ate grass for seven years before he came to his senses and recognized he was a mere human being who was not in charge of the universe. His case remains a salutary example for the Washington elite who think that city was built and the wealth of the country was achieved by their ilk.
The Hebrew chroniclers of antiquity also recorded the story of an arrogant Assyrian commander (Sennacherib‘s chief of staff), whose troops surrounded Jerusalem. The commander, a petty official bound to the immense Assyrian machine, was puffed up with power. The terrified people lining the frail wall of defense appeared to have none. He said to the Jews (very roughly summarized and translated), “What do we care about your conscience or your god? Haven’t we destroyed the gods of other nations? We can destroy you. You will be eating your own s**t and drinking your own p**s by the time we’re through with you.”
That’s the way it is with unchecked power. Regardless of how seemingly mild, benign, and well-intended the beginnings, the end result is that the individual, his status in society, her rights before the law, his conscience and personal freedom mean nothing before state power.
For in the end, tendencies toward tyranny never remain “soft,” but rather ineluctably turn hard. The mayor who can tell you how much soda to drink is the forerunner of a mayor who may someday tell you to drink your own urine and eat your own excrement, metaphorically or otherwise.
Thankfully, in the end, as Percy Bysshe Shelley was so brilliantly to write in his poem “Ozymandias,” all tyrannies fail and fade into ignominious dust.
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
The names of tyrants may be written in stone, but they vanish as if writ in water.
That tyrannies vanish may seem cold comfort in a day characterized by the left’s efforts to “fundamentally transform” America from what we have known, loved, and wished her to be. The demise of what is an increasingly tyrannous left may seem a far-off prospect, when we are now under immediate threat.
But in the end, the Good, the True, and the Just prevail. There is hope. America’s people, her institutions, her churches, her businesses, her character, and her foundations yet remain. All are inimical to authoritarianism, be it left or right. Therefore, she will not go quietly into the night.
Instead, good, decent people who love and cherish her will march to the voting booths this November and tell the Babylonians in Washington that they no longer rule.