Column on Is it Progress?

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 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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