“While these truths may be self-evident, they’ve never been self-executing.”
I flinched, early on, at the buzzwords that have made modern American presidential speeches a joke (schools, jobs, civil rights, Social Security, etc.). But then Obama explained what, in his vision, had made these good things possible for us. God did not throw them on the ground so we could cut each other’s throats over the choicest bits; He imbued in us the ability to find and develop them, and gave us a capacity for love that taught us if we worked together, we could do a better job of it and share the bounty.
Eventually it occurred to me that I had flinched at those buzzwords because I knew them mainly as bait for votes in political speeches. But Obama no longer had any need of votes. He was instead pitching a vision. And he was pitching it in contradiction to another vision, one we’ve been living with for decades and still popular in many quarters, that says America is a magic spell read by wizards off old parchment, and if we did as the wizards instructed, everything would be fine, but if we questioned them it would wreck the whole thing. I realized that this notion, absurd as it was, had made me superstitious; for while their defensive cries of “socialist” and “communist” and “moocher” just seemed ridiculous to me, I still had not completely grasped the idea that we could by our own effort and on our own terms have all the good things–schools and jobs and Social Security, for example–without the wizardry. But it’s beginning to sink in.