Thursday, January 20, 2005

President Sworn-In to Second Term

President Bush gave his second Innaugural Address today. In it he spoke of the ideals associated with our nation. Implicit in this association is the fact that the United States is the largest engine of historical progress: Freedom and Liberty.
"We have seen our vulnerability - and we have seen its deepest source. For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny - prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder - violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat. There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom."
Here, in this address, perhaps more than any other, he explicitly spoke of his belief that the primary force of history is the spread of liberty and freedom. It is something I have gradually, belatedly, been coming to realize myself. I've written in the past of the "Big Idea" that seems to be out there on the periphery, hard to grasp. Perhaps the simplicity escaped me because I have been an intellectual babe in the woods (and still am) and concentrated too much on finding something else then what seemed obvious. It is something to which too many have fallen prey. Thus, while I have been dancing around it for a while now, the President's speech has solidified in my mind that, if "historical schools" are even viable these days, then mark be down as belonging to the "Freedom/Liberty" School. Apart from America's role in the process, there are other agents. Here are some more excerpts from the speech
We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty - though this time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance of freedom ever seen, is an odd time for doubt. Americans, of all people, should never be surprised by the power of our ideals. Eventually, the call of freedom comes to every mind and every soul. We do not accept the existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept the possibility of permanent slavery. Liberty will come to those who love it.

The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as Abraham Lincoln did: "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it."

In America's ideal of freedom, the public interest depends on private character - on integrity, and tolerance toward others, and the rule of conscience in our own lives. Self-government relies, in the end, on the governing of the self. That edifice of character is built in families, supported by communities with standards, and sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran, and the varied faiths of our people. Americans move forward in every generation by reaffirming all that is good and true that came before - ideals of justice and conduct that are the same yesterday, today, and forever.

In America's ideal of freedom, the exercise of rights is ennobled by service, and mercy, and a heart for the weak. Liberty for all does not mean independence from one another. Our nation relies on men and women who look after a neighbor and surround the lost with love. Americans, at our best, value the life we see in one another, and must always remember that even the unwanted have worth. And our country must abandon all the habits of racism, because we cannot carry the message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry at the same time.

We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul. When our Founders declared a new order of the ages; when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty; when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner "Freedom Now" - they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled. History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty.

America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength - tested, but not weary - we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom.
It is important to note that the President explicitly stated that freedom isn't inevitable without human action. Rather, it seems he is saying freedom and liberty exists because they were created, a natural right, given to man by the "Author of Liberty." It is up to man seize liberty for himself, utilizing his free will. The higher ideal is to seize it for others. This is what the President is speaking of. It is something on which I will be thinking for quite some time.

UPDATE: Victor Davis Hanson, whom I believe agrees with the President's vision, just offered this dose of realism regarding the idealism.
This is the first time that an American president has committed the United States to side with democratic reformers worldwide. The end of the cold war has allowed us such parameters, but the American people also should be aware of the hard and necessary decisions entailed in such idealism that go way beyond the easy rhetoric of calling for change in Cuba, Syria, or Iran-distancing ourselves from the Saudi Royal Family, pressuring the Mubarak dynasty to hold real elections, hoping that a Pakistan can liberalize without becoming a theocracy, and navigating with Putin in matters of the former Soviet republics, all the while pressuring nuclear China, swaggering with cash and confidence, to allow its citizens real liberty. I wholeheartedly endorse the president's historic stance, but also accept that we live in an Orwellian world, where, for example, the liberal-talking Europeans are reactionary-doing realists who trade with anyone who pays and appease anyone who has arms-confident in their culture's ability always to package that abject realpolitik in the highest utopian rhetoric. But nonetheless the president has formally declared that we at least will be on the right side of history and thus we have to let his critics sort of their own moral calculus.

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