Yesterday, Hugh called Hillary, “Two Rules” Clinton, noting how the Clinton’s have long operated as if the rules for everyone else were not necessarily the rules for themselves. Tuesday, I drew a line from the how the Clinton’s tended to get away with that to the extraordinarily imperial presidency of Barack Obama. This morning Daniel Henninger, discussing Obama’s approach to trying to get a nuke deal with Iran wrote something extraordinary:
As the Obama administration moves toward the March 24 deadline for a nuclear-arms deal with Iran, what becomes ever more clear is that no other American president has so confused personal entitlement with political trust.
Henninger goes on to make the case that Obama’s past track record on international dealings is such that trust is eroded, which is a good case to make. But that phrase “personal entitlement” keeps ringing in my head.
Life gives us many relationships, some we enjoy, some not so much. I am not talking about intimate relationships here, friends and family; I’m talking about business relationships, class mates – associates more than friends. Amongst our associates, those we enjoy can and often do become friends. Have you ever wondered what traits people have that make the relationship enjoyable? The one key I have found is a certain selflessness. That is to say, people that do not feel entitled.
Entitlement is the opposite of selflessness. Entitlement says, “I am good at birth and therefore worthy of whatever I want.” What I want can be everything from a nuclear bomb to a free lunch at school – maybe even trust that has not been earned. Entitlement confuses charity with rights.
Feeling entitled takes many forms., some big, some small. Small things like you always have to go to their place. Big things like they own their job rather than have to work to earn it. Or really big things like “trust me” while I negotiate the safety of the non-Islamic world even though I have proven I can’t negotiate the price of a used car.
As I survey the relationships in my life there is another common thread amongst the associates that I enjoy – they are religious. Not necessarily all Christian, but all religious. This includes western Muslims; though I have always found my dealing with Muslims of the sort Obama is negotiating with to be formal at best. Most religions teach selflessness, some do not. Most religions teach that goodness is something that has to be accumulated and cultivated in some fashion – a few teach that you are entitled to the world.
Much is made of the religion, or the lack thereof, in the American Founders. What all the Founders understood was that goodness had to be accumulated and cultivated in some fashion. They may have had different means of doing so, but they all knew goodness was not something we were born with, or to which we are entitled. Hence they wanted religion to be promoted in the nation and provided for its freedom of expression. They specifically unhooked it from the oppression of government not to limit it, but to allow it to flourish.
The Founders no doubt knew that there were those among us that felt entitled. They knew that allowing religion to flourish was the surest form of combating that problematic strain of thought. The state of the world today would indicate that religion has not been doing a good job of teaching selflessness of late. If our nation is to be restored to the greatness it has enjoyed, religion is going to have to step up to the plate.
Are we up to it?