Barack Obama’s “universal” values

By Jonathon Van Maren

As most of you will already know from the photos of the entangled arms of Justin Trudeau, Enrique Pena Nieto, and Barack Obama, the US President is in Ottawa. And, as presidents sometimes do, he gave a little speech in Parliament.

It must have been painful for the Tories listen to Barack Obama gush over Trudeau, referring to his new bro as “Justin” throughout. “I’m extraordinarily grateful for the close working relationship and friendship with your outstanding Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and his extraordinary wife, Sophie,” Obama informed the House of Commons, “My time in office may be nearing an end, but I know that Canada — and the world — will benefit from your leadership for years to come.”

“Benefit” is most likely not the word many of us were thinking.

The type of leadership Obama is referring to can better be described as presidential—or prime ministerial—activism. “It is because we respect all people that the world looks to us as an example,” Obama said blithely. “The colors of the rainbow flag have flown on Parliament Hill. They have lit up the White House. That is a testament to our progress, but also the work that remains to ensure true equality for our fellow citizens who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.” I’m pretty sure he forgot a bunch of letters after that, but who can keep up?

Obama’s speech did get a tad more encouraging, when he announced that, “we’ve got to stand up against the slander and the hate leveled against those who look or worship differently. That’s our obligation. That’s who we are.” Of course, he wasn’t referring to the religious liberty his administration tramples as a matter of course. He was referring to the ongoing twilight struggle against Islamophobia.

Obama’s real zinger came near the end of the speech. “And let me say this,” he said to the MPs, who obliged, “because I don’t feel particularly politically correct on this issue — I don’t believe that these are American values or Canadian values or Western values. I believe, and Justin believes, and I hope all of you believe, these are universal values. And we must be bold in their defense, at home and around the world. And not shy away from speaking up on behalf of these values of pluralism and tolerance and equality.” Mmmm. How politically incorrect and very edgy.

This statement is emblematic of the progressive worldview. What does “universal values” even mean? Is he suggesting that everyone holds the same values, or that everyone instinctively recognizes the superiority of the rainbow values of Barack and Justin? Because the corpse-strewn floor of an Orlando nightclub, the cell phones of the murdered still ringing in their pockets as loved ones desperately tried to reach them, seems to counter that narrative. Some people hold different values entirely, and when barbarism meets decadence, the results are horrifying.

The “progressives” think they can remove Judeo-Christian values—which used to be Western values, but are no longer—and that the ambiguous and undefinable “universal values,” which can be more specifically defined as “their” values, will glide neatly in to fill the void. All they have actually done is shed their ability to actually critique ideologies like Islam, for fear of violating “pluralism” or “tolerance.” The Christian answer to Mohammed is Christ. The progressive answer to Mohammed is to blame the violence he inspires on the Christians, who will hopefully and helpfully respond with their habit of turning the other cheek.

I happen to believe that “universal values” do exist. Not values that everyone believes in or adheres to, but values that apply to all of us, whether or not we accept them. Christianity is a universalist faith making universalist claims. But today, when our leaders speak of “universal values,” they are actually referring to values that they hold, and believe everyone else should hold. As the recent decision of a Canadian court to deny the right of a Christian university to open a law school due to their adherence to the Christian orthodoxy on sexuality highlights, they are quite happy to force their “universal values” on the rest of us when it turns out that they are not particularly universal after all.

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