Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I suppose I should say something about the inauguration since just about everyone else is.

To the "future question" that some TV network or another has been pushing, "Where were you when history was made?" I can now answer "I was asleep." After suffering through another round of my on-going battle with insomnia and finally getting to sleep around 7am only to be awakened by the dog whining to go out at 10 and again at 11:30, at 11:45 I laid back down and woke up at 12:15. So I missed the whole thing.

And I don't mind. I'm not all oh gee whiz gosh darn about it. Now, yes, I am aware of the historic nature of the event. I remember saying back before the primaries even began, back in March 2007, that I felt "grudging admiration" for the fact that
[j]ust 42 years - and no, that is not a long time in the run of history - just 42 years after blacks were viciously beaten simply for wanting to vote by police who assumed they still could get away with it - just 42 years later, the leading candidates for the Democratic Party nomination for president are a black man and a woman.
But I'm also aware that Barack Obama is not what many of the people at the thousands of "inauguration parties" think he is. He is not a "savior" in either a literal or a flip sense of the term and "Yes we can," lacking the rest of a sentence filling in what goals are being declared doable, is an empty slogan inviting everyone to insert their own understandings and desires.

As I've noted before, Obama was not a "peace" candidate, he was just a "I knew Iraq was a dumb idea" candidate.
He's a reliable, accepts-the-common-wisdom, centrist who can be counted on to strive to continue the Pax Americana,
as, among other things, his intent to send additional troops to Afghanistan and his embrace of the fiction of an active Iranian nuclear weapons program show. More generally, he is
a moderately liberal but still a corporatist Democrat who more than once has shown his willingness to burn principle at the altar of political expediency,
that last referring, among other things, specifically to his shameful, cowardly, flip-flop on FISA. And there is still the matter of his views on same-sex marriage, something that the Rick Warren imbroglio did nothing to counter.

Still, as I'm prone to say, skin cancer, bad as it is, is preferable to lung cancer, and so is having a president who disappoints by being less than he could be as compared to one who always seemed to be even worse than you thought. So I felt about his inauguration pretty much the same thing I felt about his election: A certain sense of relief. Not excitement, not enthusiasm, but yes, some relief.

So I do wish Barack Obama well and I imagine that over the next four years there will even be times I'll be able to say "I can agree with that." Which, I'm forced to admit if I'm to be honest, will be a real improvement over the last eight years, even if still on the skin cancer level.

I will add one other thing, though:

I saw the kind of public enthusiasm generated by the event. I listened to pundits with catches in their voices go on about the "profound change" Obama's inauguration represents as if it actually does mean "the end of racism." I watched "Countdown" and heard Ken Burns declare that the US is "the only nation on Earth stitched together with words and ideas" and Keith Olbermann follow up by saying the country had switched from preferring the guy you'd rather have a beer with to the guy you want to lead the nation and asking if there is "another country that has this capacity for re-invention" (to which Burns replied, "I don't think so"). I heard and saw additional crystallized examples of what I have called "the myth of American innocence" and which others, such as James, describe as the notion of "American exceptionalism" until it became almost nauseating, treacle laced with honey.

I saw, I heard, and I thought "Good luck, Barack Obama, you're going to need it. Because no one could live up to the expectations that are being set for you."

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