I was teaching right after the inauguration and missed the commentary on NPR and Pacifica, really the only liberal stations in my red state. And commentary can be such fun to listen to. So driving home I thought I’d turn to another talk show, just to hear what was being said. Sad to say, I turned on Dennis Prager, yet again! One of the people with whom, one hopes, the country is fed up.
So what’s so bad about Obama’s thought that Prager is saying he went to too many universities? Well, the first thing he lit on was this line:
Our security emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example; the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.
Honestly, what followed was unfortunate. Prager argued that only liberals, who are supposedly all totally out of touch with political reality, would believe that having a just cause makes one secure. Now actually, there is something to be said for his criticism, since, as we know, people with just causes may end up being killed by people in their own society or by invaders. What’s unfortunate is that Prager took it out of the context Obama put the statement in; namely,
They [earlier generations] understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use. Our security emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example; the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.
That is, among other things, it is very risky for the US to continue to act like a rogue state, engaging in highly unethical practices, disregarding international law, and ignoring the wisdom and historical lessons of other countries. To put it in critical reasoning terms, Obama is saying that power may be necessary but it is not sufficient because justice is also necessary (presumably in the long term, since a bully can win for a day). Prager takes Obama to say that justice is sufficient and power is not necessary, which is very different.
But now what about the people who listen to Prager, a conservative and supposedly highly respected radio show host and lecturer, and who are encouraged to think there’s an ‘overeducated’ nitwit in the presidency? Is that Prager’s idea of making the nation more secure?
I think there are very serious questions to be asked about whether there’s some way to stop the nonsense these populist conservatives people put into people’s minds. They’re at it all the time, and there seem to be no constraints at all on what they’ll say. Surely something short of unconstitutionally restricting free speech can be done.