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Mirror of Ambrose - So “That” Happened
James Enge

jamesenge
Date: 2012-07-18 15:21
Subject: So “That” Happened
Security: Public
Tags:crosspost to lj, politics

Probably futile to fight against a sticky idea simply on the basis of its falsehood, but here goes.

President Obama said something last week about success which was not only true, but obviously true. Then some people pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, invented the internet and started blogging about it, and today the truth has become a falsehood used as an attack line. That’s politics, I guess, but the business seems important for a couple of reasons.

Here’s the quote in context, from a campaign stop in Virginia. The quote comes from about 53 minutes into the event; I’ll try to paste a shorter clip into the message below. But here are the ipsissima verba.

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, “You know what, there are some things we do better together.”

There are two reasons why this matters to me–one trivial, one essential.

One is that I have a bad habit of using pronouns with unclear antecedents. This is a cautionary tale about that. Obama is clearly talking about the infrastructure created by the community, but the “that” allows people to pretend otherwise, as long as they shear away the context.

More importantly, if what Obama says here were not true, human civilization would be impossible. He is simply describing things as they are. If that is, in fact, in dispute (like evolution, global warming, and a range of other realities that partisan hysteria has managed to make controversial), then we’re all in trouble.

And conservatives need to worry as much or more than liberals. No matter how convenient it may seem as an electoral tactic, an ideology in conflict with the very idea of community can’t be used as a basis for governing a community.

[Originally published at Ambrose & Elsewhere. Comments there are closed due to spambery--but not here on LiveJournal. You can also reach me on Twitter, or on Facebook.]
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Fabio Paolo Barbieri
User: fpb
Date: 2012-07-18 20:02 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Hear hear with bells, whistles and sugar knobs on. That is what drives me mad about conservatives - especially since they ought, in theory, to understand the importance of what we inherit from those who went before us.
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Zornhau
User: zornhau
Date: 2012-07-19 10:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Conservatives are like a pride of lions that discovered they could get fat by waiting by the watering hole of public discourse.
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jamesenge
User: jamesenge
Date: 2012-07-19 19:02 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Right--I think they're also crapping in the same watering hole, though. The idea that they might need the water itself someday never seems to occur to them.
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Zornhau
User: zornhau
Date: 2012-07-19 20:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
And the left's response is largely to throw poo.
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jamesenge
User: jamesenge
Date: 2012-07-20 02:05 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I wish the left in my country were that energetic.
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jamesenge
User: jamesenge
Date: 2012-07-19 19:00 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Agreed. Possibly, in a different and saner world, I would be a conservative--I certainly fit the profile for an American conservative, anyway. (Pudgy white middle-aged and irritable.) But the modern pseudo-conservative movement seems to be intent on throwing out the bathwater because it has a baby in it.
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Fabio Paolo Barbieri
User: fpb
Date: 2012-07-19 20:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I've just posted a rant on the issue - I think you might like it.
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