Jan 20, 2009

On Barack Obama and the Inauguration

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.


microdot said...

I watched the speech on CNN live.
It was amazing to see the crowd of ohh...say...2 million so raptly silent. At a few points there was spontaneous applause, then at the end, roaring thunder.
It was a very moving speech delivered by a great speaker. Could any man live up to our expectations of the hype of being Obama?
Probably not.
But, I believe we have moved out of the dark ages and it's just not a new day, but a new age.

historymike said...

Let's hope so, Microdot. As a historian, I study longer term forces that shape history, and I tend to discount the role of presidential elections in changing history.

But this might be a pivotal moment beyond the symbolic tearing down of artficial race barriers. Certainly Obama seems to be taking office with more people pulling for him than any president in recent memory.

And as Reagan demonstrated, getting people to believe in the country is an important step toward improving the economy. Irrespective of what people think of some of his policies, Reagan's oratorical skills helped shake off 10-15 years worth of malaise.

Obama looks like he has some of that same communication magic. Let's just hope he avoids some of the stupid mistakes Clinton made, which undercut his charisma.

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Carol said...

Wow, Mike. Simply WOW.

If you were closer I'd buy you the coffee beverage of your choice. You expressed my feelings about yesterday much better than I ever could have.

We have a long road ahead. But I do believe that the first step is accepting our differences. And once we do that ... the world is our oyster.

Anonymous said...

The crowd of 800,000 was primed to follow their dear leader...and he delivered nothing. A thoroughly pedestrian and uninspiring talk by the least qualified, most ill-prepared President in history.

By the way Mike, race was only raised by Obama's supporters, the Rev. Lowery, Jay Z, etc. There are plenty of reasons to oppose him without race being an issue.

Mad Jack said...

We'll see. I voted for what's his name as the lesser of two evils, and the truth is that I don't think any of them are qualified to be president of the US, which is irrelevant now. I was amazed at the turnout for the inauguration, but I was not in the least bit surprised at the security present. As you pointed out, there are more nut jobs off their meds than dry martinis in a US Congressman's office. A Republican congressman.

So we shall see what will happen over the next four years. I think it's likely this will be another Carter administration, and we've got Hitlery praying for something She can use as a springboard for the next election.

Ben said...

I dont feel why I should show him any more respect than the other side showed Bush for 8 years. I was there at Inauguration 2001. I saw the hate from Day 1.

I will give Obama the same courtesy. I am not going to bow down and work in a bipartisan fashion when they other side isnt interested in such things when they are out of power.

Barga said...

As normal, there is way too much disrespect for all of our leaders
from both sides to both sides

Mad Jack said...

As normal, there is way too much disrespect for all of our leaders
from both sides to both sides

And just what do you expect? Just looking at the criminal records of people in the US Congress is enough to warrant a new set of regulations on eligibility to hold an elected office in the US. If that isn't enough for you, check the amount of moral turpitude in government at all levels.

Not only is corruption rampant, but the public continues to accept this as normal and perfectly acceptable behavior.

Barga said...

So because congress is full of liars you can be a dick?

Anonymous said...

I thought the comments Rush made were extremely tame. I actually wished he would have made more. That's why one would listen to the Limbaugh feed. I'm sure NPR was carrying it or 1560 or 1230 or some other station.

All he said was it was a clear day in DC and nothing else. The crowd really didn't know how to respond.

Limbaugh had affiliates asking him to comment live. Wilson was probably just trying to cover his butt since they were advertising all day that they would be carrying the coverage live. I would love to hear Wilson and his ego complain about the man who is the sole reason for talk radio, but really don't care that much. Time for ego - check.