Thoughts on the Inauguration of the 44th President of the United States of America

In just under two hours, a black man with a self-described “funny sounding name” and an improbable back story, stands ready to be sworn in as the next president. Below a few scattered thoughts:

  • I’m tired. Tired of the pre-inauguration hoopla. Tired of watching Barack Obama being placed on a pedestal. Do not get me wrong…I voted for Barack Obama. I feel deeply invested in him. But I also know the folly of investing so much…hope…in one man. He may be (and I certainly believe he is) and exceptional man, but at the end of the day, he’s still a man and we would all do well to remember that. He’s going to make decisions we don’t always agree with. His motivations may not always be pure. He will disappoint us, probably in ways both large and small.
  • That, however, does not mean we should allow cynicism, so easily conjured and deployed, to rule the day. In my lifetime, I have never seen the type of energy around a politician like I have around Barack Obama. The closest historical parallel is obviously JFK and I hope that Obama, and the country, have the opportunity to see this kind of energy fully harnessed to tackle the many issues that now face us. The strength and depth of the Obama coalition is growing and if he can deliver on just a few of his big campaign promises, I truly think we’ll see the beginnings of something great in this country.
  • Obama is a liberal at a time when some liberal ideas such as social justice and economic fairness are starting to gain broad currency again. But one of the particular things about Obama is that he is a pragmatic, rather than dogmatic, liberal and that is a distinction that many people (mostly conservatives) are overlooking. One thing we constantly hear from people who have known Obama and worked with him over time is that he is disinterested in partisan battles and would much rather find workable solutions to the issues at hand. We’ve seen what antagonistic, partisan politics can do to this country (see the last 8 years) so seeing a president who truly seeks out opposing viewpoints and who wants to build consensus is refreshing.
  • It truly is hard to overstate what this means to me, as an African-American. I’m not naive; Barack Obama is, as I said, an exception, not just among black people, but amongst all people, and so it would be unfair to try to compare an entire race to the best of us. But, I think this gives black people the opportunity, I think, to finally feel like they are deeply and truly invested in America; they now own a piece of the “City upon a Hill”, something that up to now they’ve been promised but which has never been delivered; like Lucy always pulling the football away from Charlie Brown just as he was about to connect. That connection has been made, and I think that the ultimate melding of these long running, yet always seemingly parallel stories, in the person of a half-white, half black man, is poetic and is truly something that could only happen here.
  • On that note, I don’t think we’ve “transcended race” or become “post-racial” as a society (at least not yet), but I do think, we are getting ready to (finally) say, “Goodbye to All That”.
  • Speaking of the last 8 years, I have little interest in re-hashing what went down. We all know: 9/11, Iraq, the “War on Terror”, Katrina. But in the spirit of closing the door (and in so doing, taking a walk back through the things we all either implicitly or explicitly allowed to happen), I want post Tom Junod’s recent Esquire essay, “What the Hell Just Happened?”, as I think it’s already the best look into the American psyche of the Bush year’s I’ve yet to see. This passage hit me like a ton of bricks yesterday:

    “It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The irony of 9/11 and the wars that followed was that they were supposed to disestablish irony as a reigning sensibility; instead, they wound up exposing us to ironies of the bitterest and darkest and cruelest kind. That is, not McSweeney’s-style irony, the irony of bright minds roaming free in increasingly confined spaces; but ironies contrived by the brutal hand of history itself. The ironies of the Bush Years were ironies that exposed the consequences of our assent, guided-missile ironies that were unerringly aimed at point after point of the American creed, which began 2001 as the foundation of our belief and ended 2008 as the scaffolding of our credulity. America does not attack countries that have not attacked us. America does not torture. America takes care of its own. America follows the rule of law. America’s laws are built upon the principle of habeas corpus. America’s distinction is its system of checks and balances. American democracy is the inspiration of the world, and American capitalism the envy. America is better than that, no matter what “that” might be. These are not political statements; these are articles of faith, and yet in the Bush Years they suffered a political fate, as they became yoked to an administration that endured the irony of being the most image-conscious in American history at the precise historical moment when any control over how images were either promulgated or consumed was completely lost.”

  • Since early Sunday morning, it’s been snowing constantly in NYC. This morning, the skies are clearing and it’s a sunny day. What that means, I don’t know, but the presidential motorcades just pulled into the Capitol and it’s time for me to go and watch history being made.

God bless us all and God Bless the United States of America.

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~ by uvasig on January 20, 2009.

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