We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.
Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.
Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.
Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life's worst hazards and misfortune.
"Together" and "together" and "together." Followed by this: "My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it so long as we seize it together." What does that mean? Consider these elaborations: "We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship;" "while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American;" "We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity."
A different worldview persuades others that not everyone can or will "find independence and pride in their work," and that not every effort will or can be rewarded in the way the President supposes. This other worldview allows for no guarantees of these things for the sake of "a basic measure of security and dignity." It presumes that there will always be losers, as a matter of blunt fact if not in the pejorative sense used by bloggers or radio talkers, and that to tamper with a natural order of things so that no one loses will only make more of us, or everyone, lose. This worldview encourages a suspicion that Obama's commitment to togetherness, to leaving no one behind, to everyone sharing in the achievements of the true winners as if every individual achievement were a collective one, only turns losers into freeloaders, parasites, "takers." Those who share this opposition worldview are not convinced that safety nets, much less the "hammocks" they really envision, encourage risk rather than complacent, entitled dependence upon the dole extracted from others' honest toil.
In the U.S. two distinct ideals of fairness are in conflict. The Obama ideal defines fairness as everyone sharing in national achievement, while the opposition sees everyone sharing, regardless of merit, as profoundly unfair. As expressed today, Obama's vision doesn't appear to allow for the possibility that some seek a free ride; that may be because he sees living itself as a struggle. He recalls "the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn." The opposition might answer that some poverty is deserved, while there has never been nowhere else but government for people in crises to turn. In the broadest terms possible, Obama's espousal of togetherness may be rooted in the simplest hedonism: poverty=suffering=bad. The opposition most likely still believes that some suffering, at least, may prove salutary, or that some people may only learn how to live if they suffer from mistakes. But in more practical terms, the Obama doctrine means that Americans can't refuse to give a damn, on "personal responsibility" grounds, whether or not any fellow citizens develop the skills needed to keep the country competitive or prosperous. Americans might question whether Obama's specific policies actually result in this collective skill acquisition, but Obama would presumably argue that they can't be indifferent to the prospect of millions growing up with nothing to contribute. It may just be a liberal dream that everyone has something to contribute, or the potential to contribute; harder-headed leftists may be more inclined to give up on unproductive or uncooperative people. But who really can object to that dream? The answer is all too obvious, but I'm not sure if everyone, including some who object, understand exactly what they're objecting to. As the usual suspects post their reactions to Obama's address, we may get a better idea.