In U.S. Department of Education materials surrounding the first national presidential address to public-school students, children were encouraged to write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president. After some genuine and vociferous backlash, the Obama administration took back some of these recommendations for recruiting students to the cause that is Barack Obama.
But the pullback came around the same time that an elementary school in Utah was scheduled to show students a video parade of celebrities pledging allegiance to Obama, and to the liberalism for which he stands. In this video, various tabloid types seeking to "Be the Change" vow to "smile more" and "love more." Other plans include "to be the voice for those who have no voice"; and to not always flush the toilet, for the sake of the planet; "To pledge allegiance to the funk, of the United Funk of Funkadelica"; and, most audaciously, "To free one million people from slavery in the next five years." Yes, it was a bit of a mix.
The culmination of the whole mess, however, was very clear; to "pledge to be of service to Barack Obama . . . to be a servant of our president and all mankind."
Rational people would argue that the head of a republican government serves the people who elected him, not the other way around. But reason does not live in an era of vague feelings.
The video was produced and directed by noted thespian and liberal scold Demi Moore and her husband Ashton Kutcher, who recently told Reuters: "There's an assumption that this one man is going to take on his new job full-time and somehow wave a magic wand of change, and I don't believe that to be true. I think that we have to be the leaders, and that's not celebrities -- I think that we as citizens have to be leaders of the movement that we want to create." Evidently, in order to get people to be the change, you have to get to them early, when they're in public school. "We're all in this together," one celeb declared. Would that have only been the case when George W. Bush was president! Instead, examples of celebrity service during that era took the form of actress Cameron Diaz (who makes an appearance in the Moore pledge video) declaring on the Oprah Winfrey show during the 2004 election: "If you think that rape should be legal, then don't vote. But if you think that you have a right to your body, and you have a right to say what happens to you and fight off that danger of losing that, then you should vote."
The school indoctrination stories have been airing at the same time as revelations, on the right-leaning Web site Big Hollywood, of a government body organizing an artistic propaganda machine. Film producer Patrick Courrielche was invited by the National Endowment for the Arts to join a conference call sponsored by the NEA, the White House Office of Public Engagement, and United We Serve, the organization created by Obama to promote volunteer service. The stated purpose of the call was "to help lay a new foundation for growth, focusing on core areas of the recovery agenda -- health care, energy and environment, safety and security, education, community renewal."
A few days after the call, Courrielche noticed that the starry-eyed Rock the Vote campaign, whose "mission is to engage and build the political power of young people in order to achieve progressive change in our country," sent out an e-mail declaring: "We can't stand by and listen to lies and deceit coming from those who are against reforming a broken system...Young people demand health care now." Unsurprisingly, Rock the Vote is in favor of a public component to said health care.
A representative for Rock the Vote was on the NEA conference call. He picked up the orders.
These have been tough times for President Obama. With a majority in Congress, and an adamant imperative that his health-care reform will should be done, he had to let summer recess in Washington come and go without his commands fulfilled. You can understand wanting to use every resource available to him.
Aristotle said that art completes what nature cannot bring to a finish. Perhaps Obama's NEA might say that art completes what democracy isn't obedient enough carry out.
The problem is that, if the National Endowment for the Arts exists -- which some of us think has always been regrettable in a nation that has more than enough private resources and enthusiasm to support the arts without need of government support -- it is not at the political service of the president. It's not meant to be an extension of his communications office.
The video, the Department of "Political" Education directives, the secular crusading ... these are alarm bells. An emptiness exists, created by a tyrannical reign of elite secularism. And self-declared servants of Obama may not realize this yet, but it's a void that ultimately can't be filled by hollow rhetoric and bureaucratic disasters.
We are a culture that understands art as an elevation, not as a campaign tactic. And there is a higher authority than the president of the United States whom you're still free to pledge service to if you so choose.