Saturday, June 07, 2008

Is it Progress?

Tibor R. Machan

One of the very first novels, read in Hungarian translation back in Budapest when I was about 10 years old, was Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. Tom Sawyer followed and then quite a few of Zane Grey’s, Max Brand’s and Earl Stanley Gardner’s works, all of which I read for entertainment as well as to get a whiff of American culture. This was shortly after WW II ended and there was a chance, and lots of hope, that the Americans, not the Soviets, would come to Hungary to run the post-war show. Alas, Yalta killed that.

Though Huck Finn was indeed a very entertaining novel, it also left a lasting impression about some of America’s troubles in its first century. But there was, also, much hope expressed in the book and by the time I managed to be smuggled out of the communist hell whole Hungary had become after 1948, my mistaken understanding was that there was no racial divide in the country. Once I arrived here, midyear 1956, just before Budapest exploded and the Soviet grip began to loosen a bit—only to harden soon again—I was quite surprised to learn that the country had still suffered from a racial crisis. The few months I spend going to American high school in Germany gave little hint of this because the school, including the track team and band I had joined, gave l no evidence of segregation and racism, quite the contrary. My best friend at the school was black and the band, too, was fully integrated so I didn’t have much of a clue how backward race relations were stateside.

My first American school was West Philly high where whites were in a small minority and my claim to fame was that I was asked to try out for the virtually completely black football team as the kicker! (I didn’t make it since I kicked like a soccer player.) And later, when I enlisted country in the US Air Force and lived with a very tall and intellectual black airman named, of all things, Ivan, the race issue once gain didn’t surface for me—Ivan was a great room mate.

In time, however, I became aware that no all was quiet in race relations in America but it mostly baffled me, as did much of the injustice I have witnessed in my personal life as well as in my new country. It was always a mixed bag, though, since most of what I encountered personally seemed quite peaceful and friendly between members of the two races and bad news came from the public sector, mostly. Still, it was sad, given the potential I saw in the country for the elimination of such acrimonious human relations. As I became more and more involved in political theory and focused more and more on social and economic affairs, I also grew restless about this and in time I learned that the whole issue of racism was an immense but unnecessary flaw in America. More and more I was looking for signs of improvement everywhere, especially on the personal front. So whenever I witnessed an interracial friendship, romance or marriage, I felt a strong pang of pleasure. So nice to notice sins that the cancer was abating! I often choked up from a feeling of hope and relief, brought on by the realization that people were breaking through the barriers, that it wasn’t all whites and blacks in America who took part in the acrimony that gave the free society its main low grade.

So you might think that I would be joining all those who are hailing Senator Barack Obama’s ascendance to the Democratic candidacy in this presidential election year. And, yes, to some extend it does bring a measure of satisfaction.

Unfortunately this satisfaction is overshadowed by the fact that Senator Obama is one of the major American politicians who stands against America’s founding principles of individualism, of everyone’s right to his or her life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Indeed, the leftist political economic public policies the Senator is hoping to press upon us all in this country nearly totally undermine the mostly symbolic victory his candidacy achieved on the racial front. If anything, what would have been true progress is had a black individual with full commitment to those principled risen to prominence on the political front. If someone, who embraced the principles of limited government, one devoted to securing our rights, made it to the front of the line that would have been progress and worth real celebration.

But what Senator Obama shows is that black or white, American political culture is in a thoroughly reactionary mood. It is embarking on embracing servitude, dependence not on private but public, official masters who promise to deliver to millions the impossible dream of full security from life by means of an ever expanding welfare state. Being so associated with the ancient regime, whereby government—be it king, emperor, tsar or the representatives of a majority of voters—takes over the realms and engages in widespread paternalistic care taking, Senator Obama does not represent progress, never mind what his race is.

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