Why indeed, Mr. President. We can no longer afford American noblesse oblige.
Trump: “Why do we want all these people from ‘shithole countries’ coming here?”
Opinion by Donald Krebs, January 2018
Wikipedia: Noblesse oblige is a French phrase literally meaning “nobility obligates.” It denotes the concept that nobility extends beyond mere entitlements and requires the person who holds such a status to fulfill social responsibilities. For example, a primary obligation of a nobleman could include generosity towards those around him.
The Dictionnaire de l’Académie française defines it thus:
Whoever claims to be noble must conduct himself nobly.
(Figuratively) One must act in a fashion that conforms to one’s position and with the reputation that one has earned.
The Oxford English Dictionary meanwhile states that the term “suggests noble ancestry constrains to honorable behavior; privilege entails to responsibility.”
The thought of noblesse oblige originally described an attitude of French nobility. We, who have been given much, have an obligation to care for those who have less. Modern-day western societies have largely left behind the open acknowledgment of a class system such as the French nobility. The phrase is uncommon in modern usage, but the idea is alive and well and lives in America.
The concept resurfaced and was codified as it refers to a wealthy nation being in some ways the modern nobility. Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The White Man’s Burden,” originally subtitled “The United States and the Philippine Islands,” urged United States Colonialism of the Philippines, following the template of British Colonialism begun in the early 16th century. Kipling saw it as America’s responsibility to eventually civilize and Christianize primitive societies incapable of self-government:
Take up the White Man’s burden —
Send forth the best ye breed —
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild —
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.
First published in the New York Sun, February 1899, it presaged the “Treaty of Peace between the United States of America and the Kingdom of Spain” (Treaty of Paris, 1898), which established American jurisdiction upon the archipelago of the Philippine Islands (ratified by Congress February 1899).
Barack Obama made use of the noblesse oblige concept, rebranding it “moral obligation.” Here is a partial list from a Google search:
Dealing with Climate Change: A Moral Obligation | U.S. Department of the Interior
by Sally Jewell, U.S. Secretary of the Interior. President Obama understands that we have a moral obligation to future generations to leave our land, water and wildlife better than we found it. The Administration this week unveiled another historic milestone in the President’s bold Climate Action Plan. At the President’s …
Obama Calls Health Plan a “Moral Obligation” – The New York Times
Aug 19, 2009 – WASHINGTON — President Obama sought Wednesday to reframe the health care debate as “a core ethical and moral obligation,” imploring a coalition of religious leaders to help promote the plan to lower costs and expand insurance coverage for all Americans. “I know there’s been a lot of misinformation …
Obama: US has ‘moral obligation’ to help end civil war in Syria | TheHill
May 7, 2013 President Obama said Tuesday that the United States had both a “moral obligation” Obama: We have a moral obligation to support Africa’s progress …and a “national …
‘We have a moral obligation’: advocates look to Obama as refugee …
https://www.theguardian.com › US News › US foreign policy
Sep 18, 2016 – The US has announced a plan to expand its refugee intake – but as Obama prepares for a UN summit, activists fear it is too little, too late.
Obama: We have a moral obligation to support Africa’s progress …
Jun 17, 2015 – _ Home to some of the fastest-growing economies in the world, it boasts a growing middle class that is expected to expand to more than a billion consumers in the coming decades. _ With the continent a growing destination for foreign investment, more governments across the region are embracing reforms …
In the years following World War II, the United States enjoyed great technological and economic growth and worldwide prominence. As a nation, we were indeed nobility. With this national success came a resurgence of the European idea of noblesse oblige, especially in the minds of lawmakers blessed with burgeoning coffers. The power to spend and give away tax money, other people’s money, paid great rewards to both individuals and the Democrat Party.
The truth of Margaret Thatcher’s quote, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money,” has become painfully obvious to the people of the United States. The staggering national debt in the face of American generosity has us all asking “Why?” Why have we moved so near to having open borders instead of controlled immigration? Why do so many immigrants refuse to assimilate into our society? Why do they loudly announce and sometimes act on their hatred of us? Why do we subsidize nations that flaunt their hatred and ingratitude toward the United States? Why have we created a cradle-to-grave nanny state?
President Trump has moved American politics away from the European-inspired noblesse oblige into the Era of America First. Like any good CEO, he is used to asking department heads: “Why? How does this program or policy or purchase profit us?”
“Why do we want all these people from ‘shithole countries’ coming here?” Why indeed, Mr. President. We can no longer afford American noblesse oblige.
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