Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Random observations on an inaugural celebration

The entrances:
Well, the Obama girls sure are cute. They're going to be the darlings of the media for the next four or eight years, no matter what their dad does. In fact, Pres. Obama's wife and his mother are going to share the limelight with the girls and steal it from the man himself.

It's 28 degrees Fahrenheit out there. Brr!

The invocation:

I laugh when a person offering a prayer starts quoting scripture to God. I keep waiting to hear a voice from heaven say: "Yeah, I know that one. I wrote that."

I also love it when the person praying dictates policy to God. Or tries to preach to God. It's a prayer, not a sermon. Sit down and shut up, already!

And who cheers in the middle of a prayer? I'm sorry, but that was silly. The guy was pontificating and politicking, not praying.

The music and the poetry:
The pomp and pageantry are necessary to impress on the citizens, all of us, the solemnity of the occasion. I liked the music, but I could have done without all the rest of it, even though I understand that it is necessary.

The poem got merely polite applause.

The swearings-in:
Biden's was without incident.

The chief justice muffed Obama's oath a couple of times. I think he was nervous. Obama's grin made it all better.

The crowd:
It was way cool that the crowd was so HUGE. I liked all the 21st-century giant-screen TVs set up along the Mall so that everybody could see what was happening.

That "O-ba-ma" cheer is gonna get really old, really fast.

Obama's speech:
This isn't a transcript of the speech, merely the parts that I thought were significant. I couldn't figure out a good way to reduce the parts on progress in racial equality, so I omitted them. Of course they were significant, but I can't do them justice.

"My fellow citizens."

"Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often, the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms."

"That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age."

"On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics."

"Our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America."

"Everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act -- not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do."

"What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them -- that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works."

"Programs will end." <-- That will be a first in Washington D.C.!

"Without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control -- and ... a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous." <-- This is intended to point fault at the greedy prosperous people; however, it can be interpreted to hint at Obama's intention to redistribute wealth in the good old Democrat Party way: rob from the rich, and give to the poor. Prosperity comes from greed sometimes, but it also comes from ambition, intelligence, and hard work. I think that we as a nation would be much more successful if we could find a way to curb or punish people's greed, and reward their ambition, intelligence, or effort. If Obama does this wrong, he will remove any incentive for Americans to be successful, and they will take their ambition, their intelligence and their effort elsewhere.

"We know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace."

"To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West: Know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it."

"America is a friend of .... and we are ready to lead once more." <-- Dunno how realistic that is.

"Our power grows through its prudent use. Our security emanates from the justice of our cause."

"We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense."

To the bad guys: "You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you. For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness."

To the leaders of terrorist nations: "Your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you can destroy."

About personal responsibility: "For as much as government can do and must do, it is the determination and faith of the American people upon which our nation relies."

About principles: "These things are old. These things are true. ...What is demanded then is a return to these truths."

He definitely invoked the blessings of God. There's no doubt about that. He acknowledged the "nonbelievers," even giving them that label, but he did not minimize or excuse his faith in God.

The benediction by Joseph Lowry:

Parts of it rhymed. Nice touch.

"While we sow the seeds of greed and corruption, and reap the whirlwind of economic disruption, ..."

"Tanks will be beaten into tractors?" That's the 21st century version of swords and plowshares.

He's much more eloquent and much less political than the guy who did the invocation. He was speaking to God and not to the audience, and he was speaking from his heart.

And parts of it were comedy! (Well, they were tuned to elicit some laughs, anyway.)

Wow. THAT was a cool prayer. I liked that!

Concluding thoughts:
Barack Obama is as gracious as his wife, Michele. (One l or two? Sorry.) So far, people have made mention of her gracious (and graceful) ways, but not his. The way he has treated all of his former opponents and the former president speak well of his statesmanship and his potential for bringing peace to the nation.

Let's hope that the goodwill that was so much in evidence today lasts longer than four weeks.

To all the Obama naysayers: give the guy a chance.

Now I have two cynical observations to make. They're not about Barack Obama, but about the rest of the crowd in Washington D.C.

The way politics in Washington works, the ruling party always becomes the irresponsible party. The gridlock that occurs when the president is of a different political party than the Congressional majority is always unfortunate, but at least it allows the checks and balances system to work the way it's supposed to. Besides, the problems associated with gridlock are nothing compared to the rampant irresponsibility that takes over the legislative branch when the president and the Congressional majority are of the same political party. I fear that the Democratic majority in Congress will now try to get away with as much as they can, as Congress has done in the past.

Also, I still fear the consequences of having too much Clinton influence in the White House. We elected Barack Obama to the presidency, not the Clintons or their minions. I am both irked and worried to see the Clintons and their minions back in the White House, this time by presidential appointment. Let's hope that Obama is both wise enough and strong enough to keep their ambitions in check; otherwise he will be reduced to a figurehead while the Clintons rule the country and make Richard Nixon look like a petty thief.

1 comment:

jodi said...

Fiercely interesting and thoughtful, my friend. I'm impressed that you got that much of President Obama's address! I was too busy crying. And cheering.

I've just read your wall comment, and like your sentiment there too. You did elect who you thought was the best candidate, and he doesn't mention the whole race thing. But then again, you and I are white and we have never dealt with or experienced what the black citizens of your country (and to a lesser extent, mine) have experienced, so it IS a huge thing that way.

I like the concillatory, (spelled wrong) nature of President Obama's way of doing things. I do hope that government will pull together and do what needs doing to get your country working better. And that our government takes some cues from that sort of working together. Or maybe I'M naive too.....