“He’ll use his superpowers to win in Iraq, then kung-fu chop the Taliban! Our image in the world he’ll mend, he’ll make the Jews and Arabs friends, he’s Barack Obama, he’s come to save the day!” -JibJab

Although clearly a work of satire, the song lyrics above are a reflection of what our society wants and expects of the President of the United States. Since Theodore Roosevelt took office in 1901, most of our Presidents have cheated Congress, defied the Courts, overused his veto power, and made a mountain of unrealistic promises to garner public faith in their ability to make America truly great. Lyndon B. Johnson promised healthcare for all in his Great Society program, FDR believed that tightening the government’s hold over the economy would get us out of the Great Depression (which is a well-publicized myth), and Obama promised to lower healthcare prices by eliminating competition and raising taxes. In short, every President pledges to defecate rainbows and turn the USA into heaven on Earth.

However, the problem with promises made by Presidents is not that they are unrealistic and often ludicrous, nor is it that the people believe that the President can single-handedly solve great moral or economic crises. The issue is that most people want the President to be able to do these kinds of things, and will cheer him on as he tears up the checks and balances of our republican system to attain that power. And as historical hindsight will tell you, any government big enough to give you anything you want is capable of taking away everything you have. Hitler and Stalin are the most obvious examples of governmental destruction of its own people, but an American flag pin is no safeguard from corruption. Just look at how humanely some of our most beloved Presidents have used their power: FDR interned 110,000 immigrants and loyal Japanese-descended citizens, Abraham Lincoln arrested tens of thousands of dissenters and “suspected” criminals. The 4th Amendment’s requirement of probable cause should have stopped both Lincoln and FDR right in their tracks (the courts did declare Lincoln’s arrests to be unconstitutional, but after he died), but they didn’t, because people trusted the President to make the best decisions for the nation and never suspected that the gun might be turned on them. Constitutional checks and balances are the only safeguard from tyranny; don’t assume you’re safe just because the government tends to kill Islamists and people from nations being invaded.

With that established, it becomes clear that more is less in terms of Presidential power. Most adults are capable of handling their own lives without a nanny state changing their diapers; it is the people who create vigorous economies and have the rightful authority to decide what substances go into their own bodies. The government’s only rightful authority is to prevent the people from materially and physically infringing upon others’  lives, liberties, and property, and the President, as an employee of the people, is bound to the duty of enforcing the law. I do not want some elected savior who is pre-ordained by some deity to save the nation, I want Presidents like Calvin Coolidge, William Howard Taft, and George Washington, who abided by the law and sought to achieve only what the Constitution allowed them to. This nation was built by people, not Chief Executives, and the people, not the government, are the key to its future success.

The beginning and the end

I’m not religious. I wasn’t raised by a religious family, and I base my inferences and beliefs (or, I at least try to) off of empirical facts.

That said, I do ask a certain question that is posed by many a theist: How can something arise from nothing?

Now, I’m not implying anything about a god or superior being in asking that, but how exactly could “nothingness” even exist? Maybe I’m just limited by my perceptions of human consciousness, but nothingness has always seemed like an impossibility in my mind. Stephen Hawking says that the evidence points to a net total energy of the universe of 0, as it was at the Big Bang, due to the negative “dark” energy. Now, I don’t know much about astrophysics, but this may support the notion that the universe doesn’t have a beginning or end, that existence is the default state.

The other “nothingness” that I take issue with is that death is the end of our consciousness, that nothing lies beyond it. While we have no evidence to make a positive assertion that something exists beyond death, I have always doubted the idea that consciousness can end permanently. But I don’t really know anything, share your thoughts below.

The value of human life

Human life is sacred, no exceptions.

Of course, few people would attribute absolutely no value to human life, but, many people do possess certain judgements and opinions that are inconsistent with the absolute value of human life.

What do I mean by that?

Think of somebody in your day-to-day life who you hate, who drives you up the wall. Would you be glad if that person were to suddenly die? To most people, of course, the obvious answer would be “no”. And why is the answer no? Because human life has an innate value that would render its loss a sad event, or a major injustice in the event of a murder.

However, people often tend to perceive exceptions to this principle of moral law; it is an unfortunately common perception that gross violations of moral law can make a person deserve death. Those who believe in the death penalty would think, for instance, that electrocuting a murderer is “justice served”. Assuming that the criminal in question is within a secure justice system and could otherwise be confined to a jail cell without a reasonable fear of his escape, what kind of justice is that? The proper function of a justice system is to prevent and deter crime; a culprit of such a high crime, if imprisoned for life, is very unlikely to commit further offenses. The will to kill him, in this case, stems solely from emotion, the desire for harsh retaliation.

The problem with believing in “killing for justice” is that it represents a reduced sense of value for human life. Killing another human being is only justified in a select few situations, in which the direct culprit of such high and infamous crimes as mentioned earlier represents such an immediate, likely, and direct threat to the lives of others that he/she cannot be securely imprisoned. If an intruder with a firearm were to shoot you, for instance, shooting him in self-defense wouldn’t be a problem. Or, say that an army unit has captured a leader of a terrorist organization responsible for the deaths of thousands, but his allies (hypothetically speaking) are approaching in large numbers to retrieve him. In the context of the immediacy of the situation, that the soldiers would not likely be able to bring the culprit to trial, he is directly dangerous enough to kill. Human life may only be sacrificed in this manner if it is absolutely necessary.

On that note, it is also wrong to wish for the death of any other person. Even for the homicidal home invader described in the first scenario, potentially fatal force should only be used as a last resort; to believe that a person deserved death anyways is to imply that his/her actions have destroyed the value of his/her life, and it can be taken away. No. Human life is sacred.