Thou shalt covet
If anyone needed further proof that President Obama isn’t a Muslim, I have some. Muslims observe the Tenth Commandment.
Thou shall not covet. It seems simple enough. Envy leads to hatred, theft and violence. Laws prohibit the latter two. Morals are supposed to discourage envy and hatred. It makes sense, even in secular terms, to encourage peace between neighbors. While the police fight crime, individuals are instructed to police their own thoughts and desires. Thou shall not covet is a prescription for a civil society. So why is our president making a rhetorical end-run around that prescription?
Unfortunately, our president is human. Humans have an endless capacity to excuse themselves from sin. History has proven that we can convince ourselves that nearly any atrocity is moral conduct. We continually debauch ourselves for a nebulous greater good. With a little wordsmithery, President Obama is encouraging the sin of covetousness. He calls it social justice.
Forget socialized education, Pell grants, Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, Social Security, public housing, welfare, food stamps and scores of other taxpayer-funded programs to help the poor. The social justice conversation is forever beginning with liberals. We’re never in the middle. We’ll never reach a conclusion. Progress is never acknowledged by progressives. Obama cries “Injustice!” and everyone is supposed to prostrate themselves in self-loathing.
The selfish rich (read: anyone with a job) are forever avoiding their fair share and the poor, however defined, are forever deserving.
If this “social justice” thing actually exists, can we establish courts? Can someone propose a law? Or could the president at least give us a social justice czar who could define the problem in explicit terms. At root, the concept insists that the poor deserve a certain minimum quality of life and that the rich need to pay for it. So, how much for a just society? It’s a moral crisis, right? Can someone write down a number?
No, that would defeat the purpose. A finite goal would be achievable, and the left isn’t interested in achievement. They’re interested in riots, in uproar, in rage against unfairness. When it comes to fairness, Barack Obama is champion, chief arbiter and crusader. And he’s seeking recruits.
Over the past three years, the president’s relentless attacks on the rich have become such an excruciating bore that I can barely muster the interest to be disturbed. But it is disturbing. If you’re religious, President Obama is corrupting souls through greed and idolatry. If you’re not, President Obama is convincing millions of Americans that they deserve things that they cannot afford. Either way, the result is horrifying.
For all of his faults, Bill Clinton reformed welfare to reward work. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Americans left welfare in their wake as they improved their own lives. President Clinton meaningfully shrunk the welfare rolls for the first time in history. Conversely, Obama is expanding the welfare state. And while he is comforting his new government wards, he’s promising to make their lives better for them. Moreover, he’s telling them that they deserve it, insisting that they have rights to health care, debt relief, better jobs and on and on.
Obama is teaching people that their value is intrinsic instead of applied — what they are, rather than what they do. This will have enduring consequences.
Convincing Americans that they deserve more — even that they are being denied their rights — creates a different kind of citizen, one with unrealistic expectations and the belief that their unhappiness is due to an unjust society. In effect, President Obama is robbing Americans of their pursuit of happiness. And, by demonizing the rich, the president is focusing these unhappy citizens on an unproductive outlet.
This is a major departure from politics as usual, and it is not the language of the traditional American liberal. In the past, Democrats have treated wealth as if it were manna from heaven to be spent at their whim. While that wasn’t good, what Obama is doing is much worse. He has connected “the rich,” the “fat cats,” the “millionaires and billionaires” to the lack of a socially just society. This is well beyond party politics. Blaming the Republicans is old hat, but Obama is singling out Americans. His endless focus on the rich is fomenting enmity and resentment between citizens, especially in the Occupy crowd.
Barack Obama did not create want. People are born unsatisfied. Everyone experiences envy. And that universal experience demands a decision from every individual. It offers two paths: covet or aspire. American freedom allows for both, but only rewards aspiration. Whether for ideology or re-election or his promised fundamental transformation, Barack Obama is ushering citizens down an unproductive path.
Yates Walker is a conservative activist and writer. Before becoming involved in politics, he served honorably as a paratrooper and a medic in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. He can be reached at email@example.com.