20 January 2009

Presidentially Yours

So here we are, and I'm not sure how to feel. Another peaceful transfer of power from one man to another is always cause for celebration, and electing our first non-white guy president (though electing an Irish Catholic 50 years ago must have been a similar feeling for the nation, given what history tells us) is also a moment of note, given that the 43 men before him have all been middle-aged to old white guys (wigs, funny hats, and creative facial hair optional). Even still, as I watch television, listen to the radio (NPR, that is), and work at the newspaper, I find it dangerously easy to be swept up in a tide of majestic glory, as if President Obama has been pre-destined by History and The People to be a great president.
People are quite literally reveling in the streets and around the world - you'd think we'd just fended off an alien invasion (see Independence Day [ID4], 1994) rather than elected another politician to the White House. Sure, his skin is darker than his predecessor(s x 43), and he talks a good game, but he's still a politician. He has spoken of post-partisan politics, but he still ran as the nominee of one of the 2 major political parties.
There's an undercurrent of "F--- You" to President Bush that seems to frame much of the commentary and jubilation surrounding this inauguration, sometimes so evident that it's more of a visible wave. I don't recall any situation where he appeared in public in a black leather leisure suit and demanded anyone Kneel Before Dubya.
If one brackets off the nose-thumbing at our outgoing president, there remains a large surge of people with nothing but smiles on their faces and words of blind optimism on their lips. President Obama is the man they've dreamed of all these long years. I can understand my African-descended fellow citizens feeling a great victory - and one well deserved - but the way some white people are behaving, you'd think they had suffered 500 years of oppression & slavery. Granted, President Obama is a powerful speaker (a skill President Bush seemed to lose moments after taking the Oath of Office) and skilled oratory is something I consider a necessary component of a successful president, but it seems that when people listen to our new President speak, their brains cease to function critically, and they treat him like the second coming of Elvis Presley. If this trend continues, I predict that Senator Babs (Mikulski) will be whipping those grannie panties off and up onto the podium during the State of the Union in 2010. How'd you like to be the Secret Service Officer diving in front of that bullet?
Seriously, though: as much as I'd like to drop my guard and enjoy the ride like this was an episode of Star Trek Voyager (non Star Trek Nerds: a Michael Bay movie), I can't. This is too important. I want President Obama to succeed. I want him to heal the nation, mostly so people will shut up about how the nation needs to be healed. I want President Obama to inspire people to public service with his words, driving masses of people to cast off the chains of government subsidy and support to better themselves (I'm looking at you WV and Iowa as much as I'm looking at Baltimore, DC, or LA) and deliver unto the United States of America a new Golden Age in the 21st Century, inspired by him but built by us using good old American know-how.
I want President Obama to succeed as the majority of Americans seem to think he will, but I won't hang on his every word and action as if he were some American Idol contestant (shut up, I only watched one season), or movie star. Maybe as if he were a rock star, because I want to be a rock star. Actually, I want to be president more than I want to be a Rock Star. The President gets to know things that Bono only dreams about at night.
President Obama, I've just watched you inaugurated; congratulations and good luck. We are here to help you as you are our President, as you are here to serve us via good governance as our President. Your Inauguration Address was indeed wonderful oratory, inspirational and poignant. You called us to service and hard work, calling also for transparency in government. I hope and pray that this will be the case.
Maybe I'll even smile a little.
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