Letter to the Editor

There was an amus­ing let­ter to the edi­tor in Wednes­days Fort Wayne Jour­nal Gazette (yes, I am slow to get to the newspaper…shocking, ain’t it?). The let­ter is head­lined “Obama’s mis­quot­ing Con­sti­tu­tion instruc­tive” and is the third let­ter at the link.

Mr. Rusk, Sr. is upset with Pres­i­dent Oba­ma for mis­quot­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Unit­ed States:

On mul­ti­ple occa­sions Pres­i­dent Oba­ma has mis­quot­ed a key part in the open­ing lines of our most impor­tant pro­tec­tion from tyran­ny. His read­ing is “…all men are cre­at­ed equal and endowed with cer­tain inalien­able rights…”

Atten­tive read­ers have prob­a­bly already not­ed that the “quote” is not even from the Con­sti­tu­tion, but from the Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence. Details, details.

Read­ers may also be ask­ing what is wrong with the quote. I know I did. One prob­lem is the word “inalien­able”.

If you are unclear on the dif­fer­ence between his “inalien­able” and the prop­er word “unalien­able,” con­sult a good dictionary.

I con­sult­ed four or five online dic­tio­nar­ies and my real life dic­tio­nary. They all agree that unalien­able is a vari­ant of inalien­able. So even if the Pres­i­dent is using the wrong word, the mean­ing is the same.

Mr. Rusk then com­plains about Oba­ma’s omis­sion of the phrase “by their Cre­ator”. Fair enough. Of course it is not clear that the Pres­i­dent con­sid­ers him­self to be quot­ing the Dec­la­ra­tion in the first place. Oba­ma’s freely inserts bib­li­cal and foun­da­tion­al phras­es into his pub­lic rhetoric all the time. That he would fre­quent­ly talk about how all men are cre­at­ed equal and are endowed with cer­tain inalien­able rights is not all that sur­pris­ing. Indeed, any­one who has lis­tened to enough of Oba­ma’s pub­lic speech would be sur­prised if he was not using such language.

Final­ly, Mr. Rusk asks:

If our cre­ator is not the source of our rights, who or what then is? Cer­tain­ly not this or any oth­er government.

Well, we are all enti­tled to our own opin­ion. There are plen­ty of peo­ple that do not believe in a god, but still accept that human beings do in fact have rights. These rights are sim­ply inher­ent. They do not “come” from any­where. Note that the Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Human Rights does not invoke god or even men­tion god.

To depend upon a cre­ator for your rights is prob­lem­at­ic when faced with those who do not believe in a creator.

Mr. Rusk’s let­ter is so prob­lem­at­ic that it leads one to won­der if some lib­er­al wrote it try­ing to make Con­ser­v­a­tives look bad (my mon­ey is not on this possibility).

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