Thursday, December 04, 2008

Ambivalence Over Obama's Inaugural

January 20th will be a dicey day. It represents a joyous celebration of Change but also a reminder of how much we have suffered in the last eight years and the pain that now has to be eased.

Such uncertainty has clouded the triumph of Barack Obama, starting with Election Night when he cancelled a fireworks display in Grant Park as inappropriate. As he takes office, what's the right balance of celebration and dedication, of raising hopes and calming fears, of soaring rhetoric and sad reality for this American moment?

As Inaugural planners brace themselves for an estimated 3 million or more attendees, spokeswoman Linda Douglass acknowledges, "These are tough times, and certainly we are mindful of the struggles that Americans are going through in their own lives right now."

At a time when unprecedented numbers of Americans are losing their homes, the Obamas will be moving into the White House as the Bushes relocate to their new $2 million hideaway in Dallas. Obama and his administration will be assuming their new jobs as millions across the country are losing theirs.

"A Birth of New Freedom" is the official inauguration theme, taken from the Gettysburg Address, expressing Lincoln's hope that sacrifice would lead to "a new birth of freedom," coupled with an appeal in his inaugural address to "the better angels of our nature."

Balancing the solemnity of the times with Washington's penchant for glitz and glamour won't be easy for Obama.

He has the dubious example of Jimmy Carter, who tried to show his earthiness by passing up a limousine and walking a freezing mile and a half from his swearing-in to the White House and insisted on serving pretzels and peanuts at the inaugural balls.

Barack Obama is too sophisticated for that kind of cornball symbolism, but he will have to find his own tone for a January 20th filled with ambivalence.

1 comment:

Ron Davison said...

The game of not offending anyone seems to always be one that you lose in politics. I say celebrate for one day. Obama and his administration will have time enough to be sober from the 21st on.