May 03 2013

Obama’s Moral Relativism and the Need for Political Redemption

political moral relativism


By Ramy Osman, M4L-Virginia
May 2013


            Barack Obama gets his morals from the collective. If enough people exert pressure on him to put an end to evil projects such as the Guantanamo Bay Torture Center or the Murderous Drone Program, then he might just put an end to them. Maybe. After a few more years of empty promises. And after a few more renovations and kill lists. Only a popular uprising would convince him to end those evil projects.

            If Obama disagrees with the sentiments of a popular uprising, then it might take a 70 or 80 percent public opinion disapproval rate before he takes action. He would do what the masses of people want him to do only when he fears the repercussion for not complying with the masses (I mean legal and political repercussions). Whereas if he does agree with the sentiments of a popular uprising, then he might be waiting for public opinion polls to reach a 70 or 80 percent approval rate which would then give him the courage and motivation to finally take action. He’s not interested in doing what is morally right, he’s only interested in doing what is politically and socially acceptable. This means that he’s not an ethics-based leader (i.e. one who prefers standing on the side of ethics and morality). Rather he’s an access-based leader (i.e. one who prefers maintaining the well-wishes of those who have power and influence).

            The danger of this mentality is clear when one sees the path of destruction and oppression that America has been involved in over the years. There is a segment of American society that accepts things like attacking countries that never attacked us, killing innocents and excusing it as collateral damage, torturing people who may or may not be guilty of a crime, and a slew of other evil deeds. Unfortunately, this segment is the majority, and so the majority views these evils as acceptable. And this majority is the source of where Obama gets his morals and authority, since they are the ones who elected him.

            Obama, like his predecessor Bush, can try to pass moral responsibility away from himself and instead put it onto his subordinates and those who put him in power. He can claim that he is absolved of any wrong-doing because “the people” who voted him into power are not holding him to his campaign promises. Or he can claim that his hands are tied, and that he needs people to pressure their representatives to do x or y, and only then will he take action.

            The Obama strategy is to pass the buck on to others, and to fall back on the American tradition of “political moral relativism”. “Moral Relativism” is where a person’s morals and values change depending on their circumstances. This can sometimes be a good thing, where certain circumstances and experiences can teach a person to tolerate or even respect morals and values that differ from theirs. Or this can be a bad thing, where over time, a person can end up accepting or even promoting something that is a known evil simply because “everyone else accepts it”. It is this second type of moral relativism that plagues American political culture. Obama, along with his subordinates and supporters, are plagued with the same disease. It’s a philosophy which essentially says that Obama is justified to champion a moral cause (like anti-war etc) because it is popular during a certain time period (i.e. 2008 presidential campaign), and that he is justified to abandon that same moral cause because it is no longer popular (i.e. his presidency from 2009 to present day).

            Some people would describe this behavior as hypocritical and evil; while some others would call it a lesser-of-two-evils or a necessary-evil. It’s the latter group that is the majority. Those who excuse evil are the ones who enable it. And Obama is a reflection of those who excuse evil.

            As an individual, Obama does not have the moral backbone to close Guantanamo like he promised 5 years ago, or to end the drone bombings and assassinations. At any time, Obama could easily sign an executive order to close Guantanamo or end the drone bombings. At any time he could have found a legal outlet within the NDAA or other corrupt legislations that would allow releasing the innocent people who are being held without charge. But because he follows the culture of political moral relativism, he is rendered morally impotent and doesn’t do a thing. Obama values his job, prestige, and legacy more than he values justice, liberty, and morality. That’s why it’s easy for him to ignore the horrors and injustices that he authorizes.

            American moral relativism has enabled many disgusting acts to be carried out in the name of America. The decimation of Iraq, a country that never attacked let alone threatened America, is still on fire because of American moral relativism. The destruction of Iraq might go down in American history as one of the most bizarre and unjustified wars (like most of our wars). Guantanamo Bay prison is another bizarre and unjustified act. And the thousands of innocents killed by our drones are another evil enabled by moral relativism. But we don’t need to wait for hundreds of attorneys, organizations, or whistle-blowers to publicly condemn these practices in order for us to know that these practices are wrong. Most Americans are a people of faith and clearly know right from wrong. But for some reason, when it comes to social and political policy, things just go haywire. The power of moral relativism is just too great.

            I write this as an American Muslim. And I find that American Muslims suffer from the same “political moral relativism” like most Americans. But the Muslim moral relativism has an extra dimension called fear. They fear taking unpopular political stances because they don’t want to deal with FBI visits, false accusations, suspicion, or public displays of bigotry towards them. They’ll eagerly condemn “Muslim terrorism” but then turn a blind eye when it comes to “American terrorism”. Their main concern is finding political acceptance (i.e. the majority) not moral acceptance (i.e. the minority). They play the political game of supporting candidates and people who are socially acceptable, but who may not be morally acceptable.

            I did not vote for Obama in 2008. I had looked into his voting record in the U.S. Senate and saw how spineless he was when it came to war, bailouts, “national security”, etc. In 2012, it was disturbing to see that 85% of my fellow Americans who share my faith got sucked into moral relativism and voted to extend the tenure of a leader who perpetuates evil policies.

            The only American Muslim organization that went on the record in 2012 to publicly condemn Obama and his immoral behavior was Muslim4Liberty. We take our morals from our faith, not from popular culture and not from collectivist trends that change according to the wind. We are the only Muslim organization that publicly condemns terrorism whether that terrorism is authorized by someone with a scholar’s turban or someone with a presidential seal. We’re not waiting for the political and social climate to change in order for us to articulate our sense of morality. Our morality is based on principles of non-aggression, tolerance, liberty, and justice. We believe that these are as much Islamic principles as they are American principles, and we see no contradiction between the two. M4L teaches and advocates these principles to Americans and non-Americans, and to Muslims and non-Muslims.

            If Barack Obama wants worldly redemption for his actions (or lack thereof), then it would be best for him to immediately close Guantanamo Bay prison, withdraw American troops from countries that never attacked us, and put an end to drone violence. These actions might make him extremely unpopular and might sabotage his presidency, but he will at least reclaim his dignity and demonstrate that he is not a moral relativist. But if he waits until the end of his presidential term to do things that he should have done 5 years ago, he will just reinforce the notion that he is a moral relativist and that his presidency did nothing to stop injustices when it mattered most.

            If American Muslims want redemption for supporting and enabling evil (by voting for Obama), then it would be best for them to re-evaluate their political approach in America. They need to question their motives, methodology and loyalties. They need to go back to the fundamentals of their religious teachings, which includes preferring morality over socio-political acceptance. This will be challenging, especially in the current climate, but it will be a step in reclaiming our dignity in the name of morality rather than in the name of acceptance.

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