Wednesday, January 21, 2009

President Obama

Tuesday morning is my weekly shift stacking groceries at the Food Bank warehouse, so yesterday morning at 7:40 I hit the freeway. I thought it was appropriate, given Obama's emphasis on service, to show up and stack groceries as usual. I found a bin of green apples and the usual conveyor belt arrangement, and with a half-dozen other volunteers, set out to bag apples. Virtue was rewarded, though - at about 8:45 the volunteer coordinator stuck his head in the door and said, "Come on in - they're going to swear him in in about 3 minutes!"

We all trooped into a big conference room, where they had live television coverage projected onto a screen. We saw Rick Warren's invocation, Aretha Franklin's solo, and on through the inaugural address - no internet delays either. (Let's hear it for 20th century technology!) Then we all went back and bagged more apples.

Let me tell you, seeing Aretha Franklin really made me feel old! Unfairly, I'm sure, it also tickled my funnybone. I read a comic strip called Curtis in the Sunday paper, which is about an urban black family with 2 small boys, and Curtis, the older son, regularly makes fun of the older church ladies and their elaborate Sunday hats. I'm afraid, when I saw Aretha and her hat, I immediately though of Curtis. I don't know, maybe Aretha wouldn't mind.

Everybody is deconstructing the inaugural address today, but here are the parts that impressed me:

He talked about our great history, and invoked us all as part of it, to carry it on. I don't recall George Bush ever invoking American history, I suspect because he never read about it.

"We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals." Ya-HOO! Damn right we do. Now deliver on that, Mr. President. Also deliver on your promise to "do our business in the light of day" - the Bush administration's insistence on classifying everything always made me wonder what they were trying to hide.

"We will restore science to its rightful place." It's embarrassing to have a president who doesn't believe in evolution; you keep wondering if he thinks the earth is flat.

He included "nonbelievers" in the people who make up the American nation. (If only he'd managed to restrain Rick Warren from sailing off into Jesus-land - until he went there, he'd given a very good, broad ecumenical prayer that even I could agree with. But when he invoked Jesus, he locked out everybody but the Christians.)

"We will not apologize for our way of life." THANK you!

I could go on, but I've got to get back to work - I have some volunteer stuff to do today, and I have to do my Pilates. (After all, our new pres works out 45 minutes a day, 6 days a week - I hope he can keep that up now he's in office; he'll need the stamina!)

Welcome aboard, President Obama.

1 comment:

  1. I was watching a PBS documentary about India the other night. This Brit who's an art critic and all-around historian (sort of like the Connections guy was, some years back), has been doing an historical survey of the various phases of Indian, Afgan, and related cultures over time.

    What struck me was how complex the religious, political, racial, and cultural differences were between the various populations. In order to understand anything about present-day India, or Afghanistan, or Pakistan, you'd have to understand at least the broad outlines of the history of their interactions, which go back hundreds, even thousands of years.

    One hallmark of Bush Administration's official policy, was that all countries in the world, whatever their origins and histories, were all basically alike. Everyone "wanted freedom" and would welcome U.S. intervention and interference as if we were the messiahs of a new faith, self-evidently superior to anything they'd ever seen.

    How incredibly naive and untutored such an attitude is!

    With any luck, now that we have an educated and thoughtful leader, we won't automatically assume that every foreign leader and emissary buys into our version of right and wrong. Tolerance of difference might be the best thing Obama brings to the office.