A Philosopher's Blog

Obama & America’s Moral Struggle

Posted in Ethics, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on August 29, 2008

Obama accepted the nomination as the Democratic candidate for President yesterday. Yesterday was also the 45th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

In this classic speech, Dr. King presented a clear and profound moral argument for justice and equality. Brilliantly, he based his moral argument on the very ethical principles that the United States is supposed to be founded upon. In short, he showed that the United States had failed to live up to these professed principles and was obligated to make good on its promises of life, liberty, pursuit of happiness and equality.

Obama has shown, as many have said, how far America has come. In a land where slavery was once legal and racism generally accepted, Obama is now a strong candidate for the Whitehouse. John McCain, in a show of what I suspect is his true character, congratulated Obama on his historical accomplishment. Yesterday was, in many ways, a fine day for America.

As Americans, we have often been accused of moral arrogance and hypocrisy. Sometimes this charge sticks. There are many things in our past that we should look upon with shame. But we, as a people, have done great and good things. While our misdeeds mark us, it is my profound hope that our better natures are our true natures and that we will continue to strive to live up to our ideals.

This is, as the slogans say, a time for hope. While America has wandered off the moral road, the road is still there. We can still see it and it is but a matter of will to walk that road once more.

While Mao Tse-Tung said that  “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun”, there is an older school of thought that true power is based on moral force. Yes, guns can kill. But guns require people to make and use them and people are guided by their values. Thus, morality is greater than guns.

I think we have learned that unjustified force, torture and wrongdoing are things that we should not have done. While our power as a nation is grounded on our economic and military might, that might is grounded on who we are as a people. Our true strength lies in our struggle to be good. That is a struggle we can win and everyone else can win along with us.

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2 Responses

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  1. magus71 said, on August 29, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    Can Obama and his supporters admit how far America has come?

  2. Michael LaBossiere said, on August 29, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    I think he has. But you do raise an important point. It has been claimed that some of the old guard are dismayed by Obama’s success and are quite upset. After all, if he becomes President, much of their world view and power base will be destroyed. The appeal to victim hood will not have the power of old.

    I saw an article in this week’s Newsweek which indicated that if Obama is not elected, this might show that America has not made progress. The assumption seemed to be that McCain cannot beat Obama on his own merits, but could only win on the basis of race.


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