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