That excellent force for law and order, Lt. Chan of the San Francisco Police Department often had resort, during the process of unraveling a crime, to a maxim of Confucius.
Here is one retailed by Karl Jaspers in Socrates, Buddha, Confucius, Jesus.
When asked, "What is the first thing to be done in order to promote a renewal in disastrous circumstances?" Confucius gave a remarkable answer: Words must be set aright... [For] language is constantly misused, words are employed for meanings that do not befit them...
If the language is in disorder, everything goes wrong.
Now this saying of Confucius gives me remarkable hope. For the defining characteristic of this time, when the Community Organizer-in-chief is president, and language is in disorder, is that the community is organizing itself.
President Obama is a man who thinks of himself as having a remarkable gift with words. It is patently obvious, after a year of his presidency, that he abuses this gift damnably. He uses words in order to mislead. And the worst of his abuse is his promise that, if you like your health insurance, you can keep it.
His language is in disorder.
It is clear, moreover, that the deeper the president gets into trouble, the more he grabs recklessly for le bon mot to get out again. And he's not too careful about the truth. The contrast with President Bush is palpable. Liberals made a huge fuss about the Iraq "lie," but the truth is that President Bush was always very careful about what he said. He understood that every word was engraved in the book of history.
So, the first thing to do, when the president uses words for "meanings that do not befit them" is that we, the people, must set words aright.
And wouldn't you know, the people are. The people began this work within a month of the president's inauguration.
And here is the beauty of this process. The president is a practitioner of a profession that believes that when the people hurt a community organizer must go down among them and organize them. Mr. Obama himself started out organizing the folks in South Chicago who had been laid off from the big steel plant closures.
But the problem was that the steel plants were never going to open again. The good paying union jobs were gone forever, and Barack Obama, organizer, was never going to get those jobs back again. Barack Obama was organizing people for a useless war.
The left-wing world view sees the people has helpless victims, camping out in the ruins left behind by a rapacious capitalism, waiting for left-wing radical suits to come and rouse them into a fighting force. That may be true of South Chicago. But it is not true of the United States as a whole.
America is a middle-class country. The middle class does not wait around helplessly like victims. The middle class organizes itself for action and, once organized, it gets going.
And this is exactly what the Tea Party movement is doing. To me, the representative figure is Republican congressional candidate Les Phillip. Glenn Reynolds reports:
He is running against Republican Parker Griffith in Alabama's fifth congressional district. Mr. Phillip, a black businessman and Navy veteran who immigrated with his parents from Trinidad in his youth, got his start in politics speaking at a tea-party protest in Decatur, Ala., last year. "Somebody had to speak," he told me, "so I stepped up."
That was the America that Alexis de Tocqueville experienced in the 1830s in which people just stepped up to join associations to get things done.
That America still lives in us today. And the tingling feeling that I am getting is that this America is heading into the most remarkable political season in our lifetimes. Why? Because the governing elite is out of touch.
It is commonplace to accuse both parties of being out of touch, but I believe that maligns the poor benighted Republicans. They would like to do what needs to be done, but they are afraid.
It is the "educated class" that is out of touch. It is out of touch because, for the last century, it has been in broadcast mode, telling the people what to think and shutting out voices that disagreed with it.
All along the water was rising behind the dam, but the educated class and its political arm, the Democratic Party, kept the sluices closed. Now the water is about to overtop the dam. If things go well, the water will cascade down the emergency spillway. If things do not go well, then the water will take out the dam and let loose a raging torrent.
Here, today, in 2010, the American people are determined that "words must be set aright," and they are determined to have nothing to do with the artful, and increasingly desperate words coming out of TOTUS, the teleprompter of the United States.
Either way, as the sports announcers say, it's going to be one for the record books.