Thursday, July 20, 2006

President Bush on Freedom

Addressing the NAACP Annual Convention this morning, President Bush spoke of his commitment to see the blessings of freedom extended to every American. He called freedom “the most basic birthright,” identified its “unfolding” as the “unfinished” “story” of America, a story which “began with the founding promise of equality and justice and freedom for all men.” God, “the Creator,” he said, implanted “the desire for liberty in our hearts," and "also gives us the strength and wisdom to fulfill it.” In other words, Bush believes that God gave all people, not just Americans or Christians, the innate desire for liberty, as well as the means to satisfy this desire, and human history is the history of man's endeavor to become free. Everything about liberty here except its imperfect fulfillment in America is situated outside of human history—in Nature or in God—that it is hard to avoid the conclusion that God's providence is also at work in political history, according to President Bush.

More importantly, as a way to understand history, this articulation is problematic in that it cannot help us understand the obstacles to the unfolding of freedom. It ignores the other forces that work through history, particularly the social forces set in play by one or another institutional form. Bush's determination to express his confidence in the innate desire of all peoples for liberty is so far from how the world works, that it amounts to whistling while the earth and the Middle East burn. Indeed, the more Bush talks about history as the progressive unfolding of freedom, the more he begins to sound like a preacher interested less in what is possible politically than in what God has in store for the world. No advancement in liberty has been made by leaving it up to God to act in its favor.

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