I expect just about every blogger on the InterWebz is having his say about today's inauguration, so here's my little contribution to stew.
(I'm backtracking here; I wrote much of the following using a lot of collective "we's". That's a mistake. I have substituted a few "I's" for a number of them. Otherwise, I would have reason to doubt my own honesty.)
This is a cynical nation, and it's no wonder. Near as I can tell, irresponsibility, divisiveness, and caustic rhetoric have all but replaced thoughtful, rational discourse across the entire socio-political spectrum—to the point that it seems everything, from the most urgent national/international summit to the weekly Boy Scout meeting down the street, is stalled in a gridlock of negativity. Wherever I am, in virtual space or real space, it's absolutely pervasive. People thrive on conflict, no matter how counterproductive. And since we are wired into the world's conflicts via every conceivable form of communication from the time we get up in the morning till we hit the sack, our senses are overwhelmed. It doesn't take much to short-circuit us because our circuits are overloaded.
In some respects, we are experiencing trauma. Certainly not like in so many other places. Here, we're not being shelled daily. Most of us are not facing a murderous famine that's the result of both nature and human depravity. We don't suffer under a theocracy that oppresses women and ferociously punishes dissent with corporal and capital punishment. Still, there is trauma. It's insidious. It's the cancer of chronic frustration.
Much of my personal frustration comes from the fact that the world is too small to process comfortably anymore. There's no over there left; the land across the water is my own backyard. And so many of the dire things I witness daily have nothing to with my choices. Constantly, I witness the consequences of greed, irresponsibility, and arrogance of a relative few, about whom I can do little or nothing—other than accede to so many demands to clean up their mess—to the point that that, instead of pulling myself up and out of it, I adopt a victim mentality.
A grave mistake.
(I think I can comfortably add a few "we's" here. Because I know there are an awful lot of others like me.) We are a people desperate for a breath of hope. We are mad as hell and don't want to take this anymore. We're dying for the medication that will bring down our collective blood pressure.
Whether real or illusory, Obama represents something different to a nation burned out with the garbage we've immersed ourselves in—unwillingly and all too willingly—for decades, and particularly for the past eight years. His words ring with common-sense truth. He gives the impression of integrity. His dynamic delivery lends credence to the idea that we can overcome the cancers of chronic frustration and cynicism.
The question that now stands is this: will he, can he, deliver? The problems he faces are BIG, and I feel it is a fatal mistake to place too much faith in one man, whatever his position of power, whatever his true intentions. People fail, and after the period of orientation, I fear that many who support him now, all too quickly disillusioned, will not just be watching for him to fail (eagerly watching, at that), but willfully placing stumbling blocks in his path.
That's the cynic returning. No. It's the realist returning, but I believe that realism and cynicism are all too closely entwined. But for today, I see people daring to hope. They make me dare to hope. Whether I personally believe the new president's words or not, those words — and his presence — have generated what I fervently hope will be a long-lasting wave of positivity powerful enough counter widespread negativity. To turn frustration into inspiration. Pessimism into productivity.
What I dare to hope for is that Barack Obama will just be a good president.
And please, please, pardon this cliche, but I see no good way around it. (Mind you, I love Rush but I hate this song—except for the message of its opening lines, which to me, have strong meaning.)
"And the men who hold high places must be the ones who start
To mold a new reality closer to the heart."