President Barack Obama with First Lady Michelle departing the US Capitol Building; photo courtesy AFP.
As a small d democrat and someone who finds monarchy to be an absurd anachronism, I usually avoid watching the presidential inauguration, which to my eyes seems like a coronation and an almost cultlike exercise in leader worship. Moreover, the pre-inaugural hype and the fact that every U.S. news channel went live on the Mall by 8:00 am with a countdown caused me to grumble as I channel-surfed while drinking my coffee.
After all, the inauguration really was not my gala, right? I'm not a member of a political party, I voted for Obama in a lesser-of-two-weevils mindset, and I am not an African American. Or so I told myself in my best curmudgeonly voice.
Yet I finished my lecture on Atlantic revolutions at 11:56 this morning, choosing to turn on the inauguration for the students, since for many of these young folks this is an important event, a historic moment that they will think back to in later years. We switched from the PowerPoint to a live cable feed just in time to watch Joe Biden take the oath of office, and quite a few of my students were visibly moved by Barack Obama officially taking over the Oval Office.
For a moment, my cynicism waned, and I felt...something.
I left about five minutes into Obama's speech and hopped into my car, turning on the radio to listen to the rest. The only stations carrying the speech live were the ones that carry the Rush Limbaugh program, and Rush used pauses and audience cheers to get in snide comments during the lulls. More annoyed than offended, I found Limbaugh to be more in keeping with Beavis and Butthead critiquing MTV music videos, but that's Rush, right? By the way - local broadcaster Brian Wilson of WSPD deserves kudos for blasting the juvenile churlishness of Limbaugh in his segment this afternoon. There will be plenty of time to take shots at the policies of Obama, but let the guy and his supporters have their long-awaited day.
By the way: the folks in the crowd on the Mall booing and making catcalls were also in bad taste. There will also be plenty of time to critique the Bush and Cheney administration, but today was not the day.
After checking my email, I popped over to a local site called SwampBubbles to check on news posts. Not surprisingly, a handful of local extremists and racists were apoplectic over the inauguration, and it was only after getting a bit riled up by these idiots that I actually began to get enthused about the prospect of Obama's presidency.
Another barrier to equality has passed, a day that many people (myself included) thought would never happen. I think after reading the racist drivel I finally grasped the magnitude of the moment, and it did my heart good to see the pathetic racist kooks gnash their teeth and howl over the idea of a black man in the White House.
So to President Obama: You enter your term in office with the lofty hopes of hundreds of millions of Americans who want you to succeed. I wish you only the best, and I hope that you are up to the difficult challenges our nation faces. If you end up being only half as successful as compared with the dreams of your devoted supporters, the country should be in good hands.
To Rush Limbaugh: You exhibited a total lack of class today, and you could have at least waited until Obama finished his inaugural speech before launching into your commentary. Many is the time I've heard you complain about liberal treatment of President Bush, and here you are, perpetrating the same disrespect for which you previously whined.
And to the racist kooks and extremist nutjobs: Crawl back under the slimy rocks from which you slithered today. All your idiotic rhetoric managed to do today was drive otherwise ambivalent people like me to defend our new President, and maybe even to help extend his honeymoon period.
Oh, and racist Neanderthals, fuck off. I forgot that last important part.