Inauguration musings, for what they’re worth

Weirdest quote on yesterday’s events comes from Toronto MetroNews TV columnist Rick McGinnis:

“The inauguration was as uninteresting as it was overwrought…”

Dude. Anger, sure I can understand that; also cynicism or even the more moderate forms of paranoia. But if you were unable to find anything interesting in what happened in Washington yesterday, then you need to pack up your little columnist bags right now, ‘cause you have no business dictating to the human race on pretty much any level whatsoever.

My personal interest, although great, was not so much in the whole ‘dawn of a new tomorrow!’ hype, partly because I’m not American (and apolitical with it), and partly because I have always been unable to rid myself of the suspicion that Obama’s greatest strengths – the ones on display yesterday – may also be his biggest weaknesses.

Whatever your ultimate POV, he is the closest thing the Western world currently has to a politician who means what he says; heady stuff, that. Just standing there at the podium, he made any number of impossible dreams real – albeit, as Martin Luther King III seems to have been alone in pointing out yesterday, not quite the one to which his father gave iconic voice. Racism still exists, political divisions still run deep, and there were security snipers lining the tops of buildings on the inaugural route yesterday.

All this also leaves President Obama alarmingly vulnerable to spectacular gulfs between ideal and reality, and I don’t think it’s going to take long at all for them to emerge. If his transition is any indication, he’s already gone into cautious mode. His first speech was a stirring call to arms, yes, but not to the soaring imagination that launched his career. He will be a good President, I think – if for no other reason than that he seems to want to be, in ways that the Bush machine could not even fathom. But no, he cannot change fundamental human nature, and so he will not bring on a new dawn flowing with milk and honey.

Still…for the moment it is possible to believe that the saddest, most sordid chapter of American history might have a happy ending after all. That’s insane. Seriously; for a long and uncomfortably recent while there, the notion of a Negro/Black man/African-American/person of colour as President would’ve been considered literally crazy. Opining about politics in yesterday’s context is ultimately kind of irrelevant; this moment belongs to emotional healing, to everyone who’s ever been made to feel less than human.

And it has its effect too on those who belong to the ‘privileged’ classes. LJ-friend[info]briansiano made several interesting points the other day about the uncomfortable Catch-22 well-meaning types have to walk in re: racism – on the one hand needing to be totally free of it and on the other, to be hyper-aware that it exists. We are compelled, as per a klutzily pretentious teenage poem of mine, to understand the finest points of something we can never understand.

And now the presidency of Barack Obama – the happy ending – has brought those details out into the open, lifted the guilt enough to make dialogue possible. It may be fractious and contentious dialogue in a lot of respects, but it will be there, and it may turn out to be a lot more fascinating than any of us expected (as klutzy me discovered when I once attempted to discuss the lack of black characters in Star Wars with a co-worker of colour. Let’s just say he was embarrassed long before I was.)

‘Uninteresting’. Damn, Rick, what were you thinking?

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28 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. briansiano
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 16:42:50

    Thanks for the shout-out. I have two corrections for you. The first is that that LJ post is locked for a subset of my friends. I’ve posted the same thing publicly over at Blogger, so people can read it at http://briansiano.blogspot.com/2009/01/today-and-tomorrow.html.

    Also, the acronym “WASP” is for White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, but the dilemma I described can apply to well-meaning people of nearly all derivations.

    (Fun Fact: the term WASP was coined by Penn sociologist Digby Baltzell, describing the society of old-money Prots who comprised Philadelphia high society until the 1950s or so.)

  2. briansiano
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 16:42:50

    Thanks for the shout-out. I have two corrections for you. The first is that that LJ post is locked for a subset of my friends. I’ve posted the same thing publicly over at Blogger, so people can read it at http://briansiano.blogspot.com/2009/01/today-and-tomorrow.html.

    Also, the acronym “WASP” is for White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, but the dilemma I described can apply to well-meaning people of nearly all derivations.

    (Fun Fact: the term WASP was coined by Penn sociologist Digby Baltzell, describing the society of old-money Prots who comprised Philadelphia high society until the 1950s or so.)

  3. briansiano
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 16:42:50

    Thanks for the shout-out. I have two corrections for you. The first is that that LJ post is locked for a subset of my friends. I’ve posted the same thing publicly over at Blogger, so people can read it at http://briansiano.blogspot.com/2009/01/today-and-tomorrow.html.

    Also, the acronym “WASP” is for White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, but the dilemma I described can apply to well-meaning people of nearly all derivations.

    (Fun Fact: the term WASP was coined by Penn sociologist Digby Baltzell, describing the society of old-money Prots who comprised Philadelphia high society until the 1950s or so.)

  4. briansiano
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 16:42:50

    Thanks for the shout-out. I have two corrections for you. The first is that that LJ post is locked for a subset of my friends. I’ve posted the same thing publicly over at Blogger, so people can read it at http://briansiano.blogspot.com/2009/01/today-and-tomorrow.html.

    Also, the acronym “WASP” is for White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, but the dilemma I described can apply to well-meaning people of nearly all derivations.

    (Fun Fact: the term WASP was coined by Penn sociologist Digby Baltzell, describing the society of old-money Prots who comprised Philadelphia high society until the 1950s or so.)

  5. briansiano
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 16:42:50

    Thanks for the shout-out. I have two corrections for you. The first is that that LJ post is locked for a subset of my friends. I’ve posted the same thing publicly over at Blogger, so people can read it at http://briansiano.blogspot.com/2009/01/today-and-tomorrow.html.

    Also, the acronym “WASP” is for White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, but the dilemma I described can apply to well-meaning people of nearly all derivations.

    (Fun Fact: the term WASP was coined by Penn sociologist Digby Baltzell, describing the society of old-money Prots who comprised Philadelphia high society until the 1950s or so.)

  6. Trackback: briansiano
  7. Shoebox
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 18:32:53

    Oh god, I’m sorry – I didn’t even see the lock, which proves that my brain is completely nonfunctional due to lack of sleep. Fixed both issues. 🙂

  8. Shoebox
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 18:32:53

    Oh god, I’m sorry – I didn’t even see the lock, which proves that my brain is completely nonfunctional due to lack of sleep. Fixed both issues. 🙂

  9. Shoebox
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 18:32:53

    Oh god, I’m sorry – I didn’t even see the lock, which proves that my brain is completely nonfunctional due to lack of sleep. Fixed both issues. 🙂

  10. Shoebox
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 18:32:53

    Oh god, I’m sorry – I didn’t even see the lock, which proves that my brain is completely nonfunctional due to lack of sleep. Fixed both issues. 🙂

  11. Shoebox
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 18:32:53

    Oh god, I’m sorry – I didn’t even see the lock, which proves that my brain is completely nonfunctional due to lack of sleep. Fixed both issues. 🙂

  12. Trackback: Shoebox
  13. tree_and_leaf
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 21:53:04

    … what? I mean, I’m always struck by how much bigger American rhetoric is than British – you can say things in the States that would just get you laughed at over here. And I’m always torn between being suspicious of the bombast and feeling sad that we’re so much more cynical and cramped.

    But whatever your politics, yesterday was an extraordinary day, and how you can have found it boring baffles me.

  14. tree_and_leaf
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 21:53:04

    … what? I mean, I’m always struck by how much bigger American rhetoric is than British – you can say things in the States that would just get you laughed at over here. And I’m always torn between being suspicious of the bombast and feeling sad that we’re so much more cynical and cramped.

    But whatever your politics, yesterday was an extraordinary day, and how you can have found it boring baffles me.

  15. tree_and_leaf
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 21:53:04

    … what? I mean, I’m always struck by how much bigger American rhetoric is than British – you can say things in the States that would just get you laughed at over here. And I’m always torn between being suspicious of the bombast and feeling sad that we’re so much more cynical and cramped.

    But whatever your politics, yesterday was an extraordinary day, and how you can have found it boring baffles me.

  16. tree_and_leaf
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 21:53:04

    … what? I mean, I’m always struck by how much bigger American rhetoric is than British – you can say things in the States that would just get you laughed at over here. And I’m always torn between being suspicious of the bombast and feeling sad that we’re so much more cynical and cramped.

    But whatever your politics, yesterday was an extraordinary day, and how you can have found it boring baffles me.

  17. tree_and_leaf
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 21:53:04

    … what? I mean, I’m always struck by how much bigger American rhetoric is than British – you can say things in the States that would just get you laughed at over here. And I’m always torn between being suspicious of the bombast and feeling sad that we’re so much more cynical and cramped.

    But whatever your politics, yesterday was an extraordinary day, and how you can have found it boring baffles me.

  18. Trackback: tree_and_leaf
  19. Shoebox
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 23:54:15

    No no no no no, I didn’t think it was boring, Rick McGinnis did. He’s a bit of a blusterer at the best of times, but that statement was so over the top I just had to use it to frame my own, very real interest.

    …sheez, did I offend the blogging gods with this post or something? 🙂

  20. Trackback: Shoebox
  21. tree_and_leaf
    Jan 22, 2009 @ 08:16:49

    Ack, that came out completely different to how it was meant.

    No, you misunderstand me – I expressed myself badly in the first place (that was a generic ‘you’ that would have been a ‘one’ if that didn’t sound pretentious) I was agreeing with you that I don’t get RM.

    … sorry, I clearly shouldn’t comment on LJ when I’m half asleep.

  22. tree_and_leaf
    Jan 22, 2009 @ 08:16:49

    Ack, that came out completely different to how it was meant.

    No, you misunderstand me – I expressed myself badly in the first place (that was a generic ‘you’ that would have been a ‘one’ if that didn’t sound pretentious) I was agreeing with you that I don’t get RM.

    … sorry, I clearly shouldn’t comment on LJ when I’m half asleep.

  23. tree_and_leaf
    Jan 22, 2009 @ 08:16:49

    Ack, that came out completely different to how it was meant.

    No, you misunderstand me – I expressed myself badly in the first place (that was a generic ‘you’ that would have been a ‘one’ if that didn’t sound pretentious) I was agreeing with you that I don’t get RM.

    … sorry, I clearly shouldn’t comment on LJ when I’m half asleep.

  24. Trackback: tree_and_leaf
  25. Anonymous
    Jan 22, 2009 @ 17:19:33

    Re: Ack, that came out completely different to how it was meant.

    And I shouldn’t reply when I’m nearly fully asleep, either. 🙂 No worries.

  26. tree_and_leaf
    Jan 22, 2009 @ 17:20:37

    Re: Ack, that came out completely different to how it was meant.

    🙂

  27. tree_and_leaf
    Jan 22, 2009 @ 17:20:37

    Re: Ack, that came out completely different to how it was meant.

    🙂

  28. Trackback: tree_and_leaf

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