If you met a man who said he would like to "transform" or "remake" his wife, would you conclude that he: a) thought very highly of his wife and loved her? Or b) held his wife in rather low esteem and therefore found living her rather difficult?
The answer is obvious: Those who wish to remake anything (or anyone) do not think highly of the person or thing they wish to remake.
Little is as revealing of Barack Obama’s and the left’s view of America than their use of the words "transform" and "remake" when applied to what they most want to do to America.
I among others pointed this out during the presidential campaign when Obama frequently promised he would "transform America." That is why those of us attuned to the importance of words and who hold America in high esteem were so worried about an Obama election.
Americans on the left frequently attack critics for labeling them "unpatriotic" and/or accusing them of not loving America. The first charge is false to the best of my knowledge. I have searched in vain for an instance of a normative conservative or Republican spokesman calling Democrats or liberals "unpatriotic."
The second, however, is a more complex question.
It is not an attack on the left to say that their own rhetoric suggests that they love a vision of America considerably more than they love the reality of America; that they love what America could be rather than what it is. Otherwise, how to explain this liberal vocabulary of "remaking" and "transforming" America. You don’t yearn to transform or remake that which you love.
Many years ago, the prominent Jewish writer, my friend since childhood, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, helped to clarify — in a non-partisan way — a major difference between liberals and conservatives. "Conservatives," he said, "romanticize the past; liberals romanticize the future."
The romanticizing of the future has been a distinguishing characteristic of the left since Karl Marx. Leftist ideologies have secular eschatologies. The further left one goes the greater the belief in revolution, the need to overthrow the contemporary order. That is why Marx so hated religion — he and Engels saw it as the "opiate of the masses" because religion, in their view, taught people how to deal with their (abject) condition rather than to become revolutionaries. But one day — one great day – "all men will be brothers" in the stirring words of the revolutionary song that ends Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
The problem is that compared with such a future utopia, no actual society could possibly compete. Certainly not racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, unequal America.
In light of those frequently made criticisms of America, I have often asked representatives of the left why they criticize America so much if they love it so much. "Precisely because we love America, we criticize it. You criticize that which you love," is the nearly universal response.
But, of course, it isn’t true. If you constantly criticize your spouse, for example, it is difficult to imagine that you really do love him or her. And perhaps more important, it is very unlikely that your spouse feels loved. That is why after being routinely described as racist, sexist, imperialist, etc., it is difficult to be able to tell that America is loved by the left.
This is not written in order to indict the left, let alone the president, for not loving America. No one can measure an other’s feelings. Furthermore I do not question the sincerity of anyone who says he loves America. What I question are the actions and rhetoric of those who claim to love America yet want to transform and remake it.