Last week, President Obama traveled to Ohio to speak at the Ohio State University commencement. There, he trotted out his new favorite line of attack against Second Amendment advocates: He said it is unpatriotic to believe in the possibility of government tyranny. Why?
According to Obama, the Founding Fathers created our government. The American dream and American government are one and the same. By definition then, believing in the possibility of government tyranny means opposing the Founding Fathers and the American dream.
Here's how Obama expressed this nasty notion. He said that the Founders left us "the keys to a system of self-government, the tools to do big things and important things together that we could not possibly do alone ... To conquer fascism and disease; to visit the Moon and Mars; to gradually secure our God-given rights for all our citizens, regardless of who they are, or what they look like, or who they love."
Government, in Obama's view, is the great guarantor of rights. Never mind that government — yes, government in America — has routinely stripped its citizens of rights. Never mind that state governments stripped black people of their basic personhood for decades, enshrining slavery with the help of the federal government. Never mind that for a century after slavery, state governments, with the silent assent of the federal government, enshrined Jim Crow. Never mind that the federal government stripped thousands of Japanese citizens of their rights during World War II and the unborn of their rights in 1973.
None of that matters to Obama. He said, "This country cannot accomplish great things if we pursue nothing greater than our own individual ambition."
The Founders believed, to the contrary, that government's job was to protect our most basic rights so that we could pursue the individual dreams and ambitions that truly make America great — the dreams and ambitions that created Edison and Ford, Jobs and Gates.
But collective action is the necessary precondition for greater rights, says Obama. Therefore, standing up to government means standing for tyranny itself. Said Obama, "Unfortunately, you've grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that's at the root of all our problems; some of these same voices also doing their best to gum up the works. They'll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave and creative and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can't be trusted."
But it is Obama who has said that the people cannot be trusted with self-rule of the most basic sort. We cannot be trusted to handle our own health insurance. We cannot be trusted to vote correctly on issues like same-sex marriage (his administration has tried to overrule the people of California on the issue). We cannot be trusted to educate our children, or to hire our workers, or to own weapons to protect ourselves, or even to feed ourselves. Administrative government — Obama-esque government, in which the American people speak out once every few years, then recede into subjugation — represents Obama's version of "self-rule."
Obama's rhetoric here is more than perverse — it is supremely dangerous. American rights cannot be removed by a limited government. They can be, and have been, removed by a government actively seeking to remove rights. The Founders knew that. That's why the system they set up was designed to check interest against interest, to prevent consolidation of power in any one branch or any one person.
The Founders were skeptical of government and feared government tyranny. That's why they rebelled against the British crown. And that is why the system of checks and balances they created — a system that has gradually been overthrown and replaced by leftists from Woodrow Wilson to Obama — was designed to stop such tyranny through complexity and balance.
A people that does not fear government oppression is not a free people. It is a subject people. A people that believes that the government somehow invariably guards rights is not an American people — it is a Rousseauian rabble prepared to accept the yoke of tyranny.
God gave us rights. The Founders gave us a messy system of government to allow the government to protect those rights while preventing the government from usurping them. Worshipping government achieves neither of those purposes.