Post-Inaugural Thoughts

22 Jan

gty_inaugural_ball_obama_caketop_nt_130121_sshAll men are created equal?

We’re dug in the deep the price is steep./The auctioneer is such a creep./The lights went out, the oil ran dry/We blamed it on the other guy/Sure, all men are created equal./Here’s the church, here’s the steeple/Please stay tuned–we cut to sequel/ashes, ashes, we all fall down. (via R.E.M.: “Bad Day”)

From the Capitol:

Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional, what makes us American, is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed. (via President Barack H. Obama’s Second Inaugural Address, January 21, 2013)

I think I forgot to blog President Obama’s First Inaugural, and I didn’t vote for him in the 2012 general elections. The Inaugural spectacle is one of those discomfiting examples of why these united states sink to a reality that does its best not to ascent to the rhetoric of their citizens. “We, the People, in order to form a more perfect union…” Let’s not forget that, although Alexander Hamilton wanted to make George Washington an actual king – alright, elected monarch for life unless impeached by the Senate – and got the frostiest reaction from his fellow Convention delegates in Philadelphia imaginable, the notion of a ceremony and the need to surround the presidency with pomp didn’t repel many. Most of these aristocrats liked a little color and to step out for a party once in a while. These were the same firebrands orating apoplectically about Federal tyranny, because they opposed state governments having to pick up the tab for the wine. I think I forgot about the First Inaugural, the Second, and every other spectacle on that third January of the quadrennial, because I’m trying to stay true to the Preamble and the notion of equality.

I’ve read many criticisms of the speech, but mostly it’s either conservatives bitching about programs they don’t want to fund. President Obama even gave them a bone in the speech, something about “skepticism”. Amid all of life’s quandaries, one truth is self-evident: all suffer and die. There’s a constant tension between this fact and the human ingenuity needed to deal with the legion of troubles afflicting us, from disease, frying ourselves in our own pollution, starving ourselves because we worship the means of exchanging wealth and not the wealth itself, and debasing the dignity of work. Why can’t we turn our skepticism to our own propensity to anoint a God-king every four years? Why can’t we worship a political faith that gazes squarely at the equality of suffering and death, and pray and wrangle over catechisms that proclaim this one self-evident truth? I don’t mind how incompetent I am, and the self-centered bitching is not a surprise. But, we can do better.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. (via Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Our people have made the mistake of confusing the methods with the objectives. As long as we agree on objectives, we should never fall out with each other just because we believe in different methods, or tactics, or strategy. We have to keep in mind at all times that we are not fighting for separation. We are fighting for recognition as free humans in this society.

(via Malcolm X)

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