In the Birla Temple, a Hindu temple in Delhi, India, there is a plaque that reads: "He who is known as Vishnu the Preserver is verily Rudra the Destroyer, and He who is Rudra is Brahma the Creator." This fact (from Arthur Herman's book "Gandhi and Churchill") came to me over the weekend as I was rereading Sen. Obama's Berlin speech. Now, let me assure my easily offended friends in the Obama camp that I am not suggesting Obama is or ever was a Hindu. I take him at his word that he is whatever he says he is. (Pass out more eggshells.) But it is precisely his words regarding his philosophy of government that I find ambiguous -- and potentially disturbing.
Secular would-be leaders of men who promise transcendence and transformational change have something in common with the promises and warnings of many religions. They claim to want to preserve what is good in their people and change what needs to be changed to make their lives and souls even better. But unlike some religions, secular leaders with transforming visions of their missions often skip over the bits about what must be destroyed in order to bring those better things to man. And that is where religions are often more honest.
For instance, in Hindu, the god Rudra, who is also known as Lord Shiva, is the third god in the Hindu trinity. He destroys worlds. Specifically, he destroys the evil passions and animal instincts that usually characterize human consciousness in order to make room for divinity to enter man's world. He is believed by many Hindus to inspire people to perform acts of courage, spiritual wisdom and devotion.
Now, I am, God knows, no expert on comparative religion. But among the more popular human attributes that many religions condemn is the human desire to possess material things. (Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's oxen or wives, etc.) And most religions remind us that we are all brothers and sisters of one humanity.
But man persists in liking to have things and organizing around groups smaller than humanity. Specifically, modern Western civilization -- and the United States, in particular -- has done rather well organizing into nations and permitting its people to be free to produce and keep most of the fruits of our labor.
Reading Obama's Berlin speech, I see dangerous suggestions that he doesn't share that happy view of American prosperity. As he said, while he came to Berlin as "a proud citizen of the United States," he also came to Berlin as "a fellow citizen of the world." Putting aside the thought that a rally in Berlin in front of a quarter-million glistening-eyed, bosom-clenching, swooning Germans is a historically awkward spot for a leader to proclaim his worldwide goals for tomorrow, his actual words are disconcerting enough -- even if they had been delivered in peaceful Switzerland.
He said: "The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between natives and immigrants cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down. We know that these walls have fallen before. After centuries of strife, the people of Europe have formed a union of promise and prosperity."
That last sentence would suggest that Obama is not terribly keen about nation-states. It suggests that he believes that nation-states have outgrown their practical and moral utility. That is why, presumably, he says that we must tear down the walls between the countries "with the most" -- that would be the United States -- and those with the least. That is why he calls for tearing down walls between "natives and (illegal?) immigrants." That is why he is for strict reductions in carbon emissions for the United States, even if it reduces our prosperity more than it does poorer countries.
That is why he is a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 2433, the Global Poverty Act, a bill Obama's own Web site proudly claims would "cut extreme global poverty in half by 2015." Now, that bill would only authorize the end of gross wealth disparities between nations; it doesn't appropriate money for it or order taxes to pay for it. So technically, that promise doesn't cost a cent. But if Obama is sincere about those goals he proudly champions -- and if he has the political power next year to raise taxes and appropriate taxpayer dollars -- we could see the beginning of vast transfers of our wealth to his "fellow citizens of the world."
Sen. Obama owes it to the public to let us know how much of our hard-earned money he, in his wisdom, believes we have a moral obligation to give away to poor people around the world -- and how much of our money that he has a moral obligation to extract from our wages forcefully, through federal taxation. He has a moral obligation to do as the Hindu god Rudra did and tell his intended subjects what of ours he will destroy to make us better people.
I hope Obama is just saying stuff that he thinks sounds good to the kids. But if Obama means what he says, we should brace for the wrath of Rudra.