Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Remembering Dr. King While Celebrating President Obama's (and Our) Victory

North Carolina received its first sustained snowfall of the year early on Inauguration Day, a fitting happenstance for this state (which usually sees little snow and therefore comes to a screeching halt when it does - enabling everyone to see the Inauguration ceremonies), as one that moved from the red to the blue column during this extremely tight and hard-fought election, and assured Obama's ultimate triumph. I can vouch that much of NC was applauding exuberantly that powerful, joyous, crowd-pleasing and tear-beckoning speech of triumph overcoming great adversity (which as clichéd as it sounds was really what it was all about) - reminding me so much of Dr. King's speeches in tenor if not in tone - along with the rest of the country and the world (and how about that bow to "nonbelievers" Obama included?) as everyone I saw today was smiling and almost singing with joy about the day's events. Even the white people (humor). Listening to the Queen of Soul singing "My Country 'Tis Of Thee" was one of the unexpected pleasures of today's Inaugural moments until I began to listen closely to the new President's revolutionary plans for our country and "the ground . . . shifted beneath" our feet. It was a speech that resonated with every sentence. No words were wasted with platitudes or feel-good drivel. Against the solemn, disapproving critical tones of teh talking heads, I heard a momentously important and heart-touching speech (with a warning about possible harsh consequences for past behavior) that will be widely read and discussed by those who appreciate fine thought and its articulation for years into the future (or at least until the novelty of an African-American President with excellent communications skills ceases to exist).

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents. So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans. That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet. These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights. * (Continued at bottom of page.)
Even right-wing-designated inarticulate (or just careless?) Chief Justice John Roberts' screwup of Obama's Oath of Office couldn't stop the positive vibes emanating from the record two million participants. The Bush love affair continued on CBS under Bob Scheiffer's and Katie Couric's tutelage. Andy Card, Dan Bartlett and even Hillary-excuser Vernon Jordan were allowed to comment on all the action before the events began (but no solely pro-Obama representative was included in this in-group). Jordan was even reminded that he had told Obama "this wasn't his year." (It was Hillary's, of course, said Katie.) Katie showed us again (and she should be thanking Sarah Palin every day on her hands and knees for making her look professional for once) why she would have never been chosen by actual qualifications for this position with her mispronunciations, touting of teh Bushies at every opportunity and misstatements of historical facts - ending with a wistful comment about "W"'s last "poignant" moment as he looked back from the helicopter before departing "despite his low poll numbers." (Sigh!) Rick Warren, perhaps the poorest bit of political strategy you can accuse President Obama of lately (although who knows whether or not it will make a difference with that crowd in the future), began the celebration on a flat note and came across as the same bigoted, loud mouth the right-wing has grown to know and love as he spoke waaaaaay too long and said nothing worth remembering. The benediction was on a totally higher note. And then we consider the always-present Fawning Corporate Media message. Ever wonder why Bob Schieffer is always CBS's man on the political "spot" (not to mention the unabashed touter of right-wing politicians' arguing points on Sunday Morning's "Face the Nation")? Particularly the way he defended Bush's Katrina response which Bush had tried to highlight in a speech as misunderstood right before the inauguration? You might take a look at his brother Tom for a broad hint (according to Russ Baker's Family of Secrets (read it!)), the "former Texas state representative once dubbed one of the 'ten worst legislators' in Texas by Texas Monthly," who helped to engineer the land and financing "welfare for billionaires" Texas Rangers deal that made "W" a very rich failure. For his "thank-you," Bush appointed him "ambassador to Australia and then to Japan."
Along with Bush's lawyer in the Rangers deal, James Doty, the Baker Botts lawyer working for the Saudis, the person who recruited Tom Schieffer also represented both the American oil industry and the Saudis. James C. Langdon Jr. was a Washington attorney who ran the energy practice for the prominent Dallas firm of Akin, Gump.
I don't believe our boy Bobby uttered one sentence that he didn't tie to teh goodness of the Bushies' manners and grace regarding the Obamas' entry into their (and the people's) residence. Unless it was his sweetheart comments about Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina being the "most astute political observer" evah and how even he said that maybe (just maybe) both parties "could start working together" for the common good (or some such ridiculous sentiment from right wingers). (Insert sound of bleching from viewers here.) The incredible feeling of glee that accompanied the viewing of the black limousines bearing the old guard away for the last time was overwhelming to this observer. And then, of course, there were all the firsts. So many women for the first time in elected positions (I won't list them because it goes on and on - yay!), Joe Biden becoming the first Catholic Vice President and, of course, the first African-American President and First Family. (Senators Kennedy and Byrd have been reported in the last few hours to be improving after both were hospitalized after being negatively affected by the cold and stress of the day's events.) In the expected right-wing rush to get out of town from the fine reporters at Crooks and Liars we learn that:
Fox's Brit Hume said that little will come from Democrats' attempts to investigate Bush officials who politicized the Justice Department. "We've heard John Conyers, one of the most liberal members of the American body politic, wants to hold investigations. He's held many farcical investigations in the past. The likelihood is they will go nowhere and end up being an embarrassment to the Congress and the Democrats in charge there," said Hume.
If I hadn't been reading Russ Baker's Secrets of the Bush family I wouldn't think that Brit had inside information (ha!). That paragon of public service, Ed Gillespie, provides us some valuable insight into the new bipartisanship:
From CNN's new State of the Union, Ed Gillespie suddenly loves him some bi-partisanship and is against nasty partisan attacks. Coming from one of the nastiest, most partisan administrations which subscribed to the Karl Rove/Lee Atwater school of politics, this is pretty rich. Now it's not good for the country to act that way. Gee Ed, thanks for coming around to that way of thinking now that the Democrats are in charge. Mighty kind of you. . . . I do think, and I encourage my fellow Republicans and people who share my more conservative philosophy that we not fall prey to trying to retaliate from the kind of viciousness and the kind of bitter attacks, personal attacks against President Bush that we saw from the left in the past eight years. We can make a stand on principle. And we can oppose on policy without - you know, engaging in that kind of harsh, personal, nasty rhetoric. It's not good for the process. It's not good for the country.
To a new world! Suzan * (President Obama's fine speech continued below.)
Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met. On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics. We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness. In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom. For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life. For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth. For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sanh. Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction. This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America. . . . What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. Those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government. Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good. As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers ... our found fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more. Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint. We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you. For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace. To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
Read the rest here. _____________________

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