Joseph E. Schmitz' Perspective:
The dichotomy between the Obama and Romney reactions to the American Embassy in Cairo’s statement on the anniversary of 9/11 that, “We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others,” is a classic manifestation of what C.S. Lewis coined as the, “Principle of First and Second Things.”
First things are core values that define who we are. Second things, e.g., survival and money, are also very important.
According to the Principle of First and Second Things, if you only focus on second things, as important as they are, in the end you will fail to achieve those second things — and, in the process, you lose your first things.
In the words of C.S. Lewis, “You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first.” (C.S. Lewis, “Time and Tide,” reprinted in "God in the Dock" 1942).
Put even more basically, you cannot preserve second things without first preserving first things.
A more recent first things expert explained the principle more bluntly, using the most basic of all second things to make the point: “The society that believes in nothing worth surviving for — beyond mere survival — will not survive.” (Peter Kreeft, "A Refutation of Moral Relativism: Interviews With An Absolutist" 1999).
Plato said essentially the same thing in 360 B.C.: “there are two different kinds of good things, the merely human and the divine; the former are consequential on the latter. Hence a city which accepts the greater goods acquires the lesser along with them, but one which refuses them misses both . . .” (Plato, "The Laws").
Obama and his team tend to ignore American first things, e.g., the principles and rights our founders considered “unalienable,” including those embodied in our First Amendment — even while paying lip service to the First Amendment — and they focus instead only on second things, e.g., money and survival — typical priorities for all humans, even for those who epitomize the antithesis of American first things.
For example, in response to the recent American Embassy Cairo statement rejecting “the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others,” referring to a private-sector American film that makes fun of Mohammed, the White House disowned the embassy statement as unauthorized.
President Obama later said that while, “we believe in the First Amendment . . . this film is not representative of who we are, and our values, and I think it is important for us to communicate that.” Obama, of course, also condemned the recent attacks in Libya and Cairo: “That’s never an excuse for violence against Americans, which is why my No. 1 priority and my initial statement focused on making sure that not only are Americans safe, but that we go after anyone that would attack Americans.”
On a related note, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested that, “Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation.”
Tolerance per se is not an American first thing.
To quote a famous American immigrant from a paradigmatically intolerant society (Nazi Germany): “Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil.” (Thomas Mann, “A Good Soldier,” in The Magic Mountain (1924 as "Der Zauberberg").
In contrast to these examples of Obama and Clinton foci
on second things, Governor Romney promptly denounced the American Embassy Cairo statement, along with the attacks in Libya and Cairo, publically expressing his “condolences to the grieving loved ones who have [been] left behind as a result of these who have lost their lives in service to our nation”: “Four diplomats lost their life including the U.S. ambassador Jay Christopher Stevens in the attack in our embassy in Benghazi Libya and of course with these words I extend my condolences to the grieving loved ones who have [been] left behind . . . I know that the people across America are grateful for their service and we mourn their sacrifice.”
After paying these appropriate respects to the families of the slain Americans, Governor Romney appropriately turned to first things:
“America will not tolerate attacks against our citizens and our embassies. We’ll defend also our constitutional rights of speech and assembly and religion. We have confidence in our cause of America. We respect our Constitution. We stand for the principles our Constitution protects. We encourage our nations to understand and respect the principles of our Constitution because we recognize that these principles are the ultimate source of freedom for individuals around the world. . . . The attacks in Libya and Egypt underscore that the world remains a dangerous place and that America leadership is still sorely needed.”
Thank God that Mitt Romney has the courage publically to address American first things during these challenging times.
Joseph E. Schmitz served as inspector general of the Dept. of Defense from 2002-2005 and is CEO of Joseph E. Schmitz, PLLC. Read more reports from Joseph E. Schmitz — Click Here Now.
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