Monday, January 19, 2009

Warning: Buzzkill post

Dave is in D.C., and if all goes according to plan he’ll fight his way down to the Mall and see Obama’s swearing-in via Jumbotron. He’s got his Blackberry, so he should be able to send photos as he wanders through the crowd—or more likely, stands locked into one chilly spot by the crush of delirious Obamamaniacs. I'll post pics if he gets some good ones.

I opted to stay home, mostly because I hate the cold, and huge crowds kinda freak me out. I went to the big abortion rights march in 1992, and being crammed onto the Mall with roughly 500,000 other humans was not a joyous experience. Repeating the ordeal with a mob of millions was pretty much out of the question.

I’ve had a few moments of regret about my decision not to go. After all, I was very happy to see Obama elected, especially considering the horrifying alternative. I thought it said something good about us as a people that we chose an untested but obviously intelligent guy over a familiar warmonger. As for the race issue, of course the symbolic significance is huge, and symbols are not trivial. I think talk of a post-racial society is bullshit, but I am old enough to remember when a president with black skin was inconceivable. Without a doubt, we've made progress.

Obama’s inauguration will be historic, important, a glad day for Americans—all that stuff. I’ve got enough love of country in me to feel a little pang about missing my chance to witness it, but now that the day is upon us, I find I’m very glad I chose to sit this out. I don’t want to feel triumphant or redeemed, I don’t want to be surrounded by people who are relieved that we can once again feel like the good guys.

We are not the good guys.

Bush was an exceptionally clumsy imperialist, but there was nothing unique about anything he did. The United States has been wielding its big stick all over the globe for more than a century. Obama may close Gitmo and make a peaceful gesture here and there, but he's already promised to send more troops to Afghanistan, and given us a Secretary of State who's made it very clear whose team she's on in Israel's conflict with the Palestinians. Whatever "change" Obama may bring, it won't mean the end of American-sponsored state terrorism.

Knowing that, I just can't get myself into the party spirit. That throng in D.C.--and all the rest of us--should be mourning the massacred innocents of Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza, not celebrating the installation of Prince Charming at the White House.

Photo of Douglas Fairbanks speaking at a Liberty Loan rally, 1918, from Wikimedia Commons


Anonymous said...

What about the massacred children in Israel? Hamas was deliberately dropping bombs on Israeli schools before Israeli bombs, aimed at Hamas in self defense, struck Gazan children as an unwanted incident to that defense. Tragic on both sides, but you are starting in the middle in thinking about this.... Why is there no mentiion of the original sin of Hamas in aiming rockets at Israeli schools, the right of Israel to defend itself, or Hamas's later sin of hiding behind the skirts of its civilians?... Do you expect Israel to defend itself "gently" so that Hamas can aim rockets at Israeli children again? Where is the gentleness of Hamas when they station themselves next to civilians?...The citizens of Gaza put Hamas in power. It is tragic that they must learn the hard way that their elected representatives should be as peace-loving as they would like Israel to be.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we can be the good guys again, though? Or yet, still. I mean it wouldn't take very much at all to make me feel better, little stuff he could change internally like making those motherfuckers stop blowing up the mountains of WVA, straighten out the misogynistic business going on about reproductive freedoms ... there's so much he could fix with just a tweak back in the right direction, not to mention all the stuff beyond our borders.

BitterGrace said...

No, AFF, I am not "starting in the middle." The "original sin" here is the expulsion of the Palestinians from their homeland. I'm not going to enumerate the subsequent decades of crimes against the Palestinians. We both know what they are, even if you wish to justify them.

The argument that killing Gazan children was an "unwanted incident" is absurd. If you launch a full-scale bombardment of a densely populated area, KNOWING that you will inevitably hit scores of innocent people, then you are deliberately targeting civilians. To claim otherwise is a shameless rhetorical obfuscation.

I am no fan of Hamas. I don't devote myself to condemning the crimes of Hamas because they are not OUR crimes. My tax dollars go to fund the crimes of Israel. My government endorses the crimes of Israel. I share the guilt for the crimes of Israel. All Americans do.

BitterGrace said...

I agree that he can move some things in a better direction, R, and I think he will. But we'll remain a murderous empire. He won't change that because he can't. I'm not sure we as a people can do much to stop it, but we could start by giving a shit--which we currently don't.

Anonymous said...

To everything there is a season, and today is not the day for being a sourpuss. We don't get many days to be happy about our government. Do you remember just a year or so ago when I was tearing my hair and gnashing my teeth because the Democrats were running a black dude and a woman, so therefore ANYBODY the Republicans ran would win, and you said look on the bright side, would we ever have thought a black man and a woman COULD run, and you chose to believe one of them could win, too? And look, Gracie, your optimism was not misplaced. Seems a shame you're not going to take a little joy in it. Go get a new haircut. You'll feel better. :-D

BitterGrace said...

I'm not being a sourpuss. I spent the first half of this post saying what's good about this day. I do take a measure of joy in Obama's election. But I haven't lost my mind or my moral sense, and I don't want to. I'm all for recognizing positive change, but all this talk of America being restored to its rightful place as "the greatest country on earth" is sickening chauvinism. I'd like to see us outgrow that. So would the rest of the world.

FWIW, I don't think we should ever be happy about our government. Resistance is essential to democracy.

Aimée L'Ondée said...

I disagree. Today is NOT the day to be mourning massacred innocents, no matter how much they deserve mourning, and I believe they do. Today is the day to say, I love you all. Now let's get to work.

Mary said...

After the crap of the last 8 years, maybe we can afford to put on our rose colored glasses and have one day of euphoria. The harsh realities that tomorrow will bring are going to come all too soon. For now, I'm just feeling good that our President can express himself in complete sentences.
Baby steps....

ScentScelf said...

I understand. But I also think that the most powerful way to pull us together is joy. The joy can be tempered, can be eyes open, but there can be joy.

As for innocents being massacred, there are countless more in Africa. And elsewhere, of course. There is so much tragedy, the weight can push on your chest and make it impossible to get up in the morning.

But we need to get up. We need to experience joy. We need to move. And we need to do something.

Don't worry. We've been told it's time to let go of our childish foolishness. Lowry knew. We know.

WTH...we do sniff perfume.

(oh, I write this, the President is giving a pop culture backstage interview...a bit embarassed, am I...fawning media /blech...)

But I'm still happy! ;)

BitterGrace said...

You're so right about Lowery:

" work for that day when nations shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid..."

The best words anyone said all day. I felt pretty happy myself when I read them. ;-)

Julie H. Rose said...

I am not commenting to argue with you. I would not do that on any day.

I prefer to understand, whether I agree or not, with another's viewpoint.

I even feel that way about George W. Bush, even though I'm glad that war criminal is out of office.

I do want to say, however, that I do think this is a historic day. No, Obama is not perfect. But, seeing footage of people all over the world watching TV, smiling, and expressing joy that this man is now POTUS, I couldn't help feeling hopeful.

We are a still an adolescent nation state with too much power, but I do believe we've now got a president who has a world view that essentially is decent.

And honestly, I never thought I'd see a black man elected in my life time, especially one with the middle name of Hussein. This is not nothing, nor is just symbolism. Maybe our days of living and acting out of fear are numbered. Maybe. Even if it was just for one day, it's something.

Anonymous said...

Would you kindly advise me as to why my second comment (Jan 20) was not approved for publication. Thank you.

BitterGrace said...

Your second comment never reached me, AFF. Blogger occasionally drops comments, sorry about that.

You are welcome to send it again assuming it's civil, but I have to warn you, I will not let you hijack my blog. I'm afraid your first comment and your Orwellian screen name make you seem suspiciously like a troll. Friends may speak their minds freely here. Trolls must play elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Tricky one this. I feel a sense of joy. But I have huge, insurmountable qualms about the 'lead the world' rhetoric and the myopia that often goes hand-in-hand with it.

I find nationalism tough to stomach, even on days of justifiable celebration.

For an atheist like me, the conflation of religious and political discourse also does me in - a little too much Manifest Destiny there really.

And I felt that joy in 1997 too, and look at where that got me.

However, I still feel the joy, even if it's tempered by a cold wind.

BitterGrace said...

Now that the party's over, I guess I'd say I'm pretty much where you are, Leo. There's no question it was a genuinely happy day for a lot of us, and appropriately so. I do see the point that disheartened people cannot accomplish much. And Julie's right--Obama's instincts are fundamentally decent. He's intelligent and humane, and if we decide those are the qualities we want to invest in, things can only get better.

I want to see us invest in the courage of Joseph Lowery, too--to stop "living and acting out of fear," as Julie said. Obama himself hasn't shown much of that courage so far. We'll see.

BTW, Leo, I understand the ick factor of all that religion--wasn't Rick Warren horrible? But I wouldn't have ditched Lowery and his biblical cadences. I suppose that's my roots showing ;-)

Anonymous said...

Lowery, along with Desmond Tutu, and a small handful of others, are people who've earned the right to share their faith, no matter what a curmudgeonly non-believer like myself might think... :-)

Mary said...

Actually, I felt a thrill when Obama actually said the words 'non-believers' and meant it inclusively. That has NEVER happened in this country's history from the mouth of a President!

He'll be tested, and soon. And then we'll see where he is, as far as his courage.

BitterGrace said...

I noticed the nod to the atheists, too, Mary. A good thing. Maybe for his second term he can acknowledge the Wiccans :-)

Julie H. Rose said...

As I've commented before in another post (but it might have been a different blog, now that I think of it), I wish all the nods to religion were just left out of any and all political speeches and oaths. In fact, they are NOT necessary in oaths. A public official (or a jury member) does not have to swear on a bible. They can just "affirm to tell the truth."

I wish Obama would say "Let's just take it as given I'm including people of every possible spiritual belief system." I highly doubt he'll say that. He's steeped in a strong moral Christian conviction. His, thankfully, is one I respect, but every time I hear the words "God bless America" I cringe. And should this God not bless other nations? To me, that's always the implication.

BitterGrace said...

There's some state license plate--Alabama maybe?--that I see all the time that actually has "GBA" as its motto. I think I'd feel obliged to scratch it off if I had to put that plate on my car.

The oath business is so absurd, you're right. How much did it matter to Bush that he had his hand on a Bible when he promised to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States?"

Perfumeshrine said...

You know I'm not one to break out the candles and start launching baloons upwards, but I do feel there is a sense of hope and it's good to see this in the "voices" of Americans especially. I felt they were so angry and ashamed themselves before that they became super-defensive to any little criticism: it was a little sad to watch...You're a nation that deserves better and I do hope you get better with this administration.
It was good to see him sign the close of Guantanamo, I have to tell you.

Now, of course, being the prez doesn't really make such a HUGE difference in the foreign policy. I have the feeling that greater powers to be are behind every president and they have a pretty clearly delineated plan on what that entails for the rest of the world. It was the very sympathetic Clinton who allowed the war on Kossovo to happen after all, remember? (all the while when he admitted -for the first time in our history!- that the US knew a dictatorship was scheduled to be implemented and activately allowed it to happen...)

At any rate after the unprecedented marring of the US image in the eyes of the world, anything would be an improvement.

So at least I hope the new administration is better for the US citizens themselves. That would be grand indeed and no small feat.

BitterGrace said...

You're right--Clinton got a pass on so many things: Kosovo, the sanctions against Iraq, etc. Of course, it's all been forgotten in the wake of Bush, who would make anyone look good.

I was very pleased about Gitmo myself. Obama walked his talk with that. It's a good start.