"At Last"

I am really going to try and make this my last post on ‘American politics’ for awhile. Next week the Conservatives are going to be releasing the most important Canadian budget in over 15 years (the last significant budget being that delivered by Paul Martin following the Liberals’ rise to power in 1993), we’ll see Michael Ignatieff as the Opposition Leader, find out what happened to the ‘coalition,’ (I think it’s deader than dead) and see how Harper reacts to the knew North American political climate created by President Obama’s inauguration. And later this week the Riders will be making a couple of announcements about key free agent signings and coaching changes (May can’t come soon enough!).

But before I turn my attention back to all things Canadian, I wanted to share my thoughts on today’s inauguration.

First, I LOVED First Lady Michelle Obama’s fashion choices. I’m not one to read a whole lot into the significance of what designer was chosen because I think she has a much more important role than that of a fashion icon, but I thought her choices were inspired. Enough said.

Second, following the flubbing of the presidential oath, I silently wondered if Obama was truly sworn in and could actually be president. I thought they might have had to redo the oath, but it turns out that Obama became president at 12 noon EST and would have no matter what.

Third, I thought the ‘Air and Simple Gifts’ selection performed by the amazing and incomparable Itzhak Perlman (violin) and Yo-Yo Ma (cello), along with clarinettist Anthony McGill and pianist Gabriello Montero was stunning. I loved the interplay between the violin and cello, and it was wonderful to see the joy on all of the performer’s faces as they performed. Personally, I would have liked the clarient to be a little more prominent throughout the pieces, as I thought the textures of the score covered it too much. But John Williams composed a beautiful and memorable arrangement of the well-known American folk song. Aaron Copland would have been proud, I think.

Fourth, I really liked the poem that Elizabeth Alexander wrote and read. My favourite image was this one: “All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues.” But my favourite lines were the last two: “In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun. On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp — praise song for walking forward in that light.” The poem was simple and straightforward, yet all-encompassing of the American experience.

Fifth, the inaugaral address. It was good, but a little odd. Odd because it rarely mentioned the word ‘change,’ as pointed out by the New York Times (they have a fun little blog devoted to the speech, which features the comments of former presidential speechwriters), and odd because it was not inspired. At first I thought it was rather depressing, but after some reflection, the best words I can think of to describe it are tempered and measured. It talked of the sacrifices Americans are going to have to make to return the country to its former greatness. It talked of the myriad of challenges that Americans face, but that the American spirit will triumph. Ah, the trappings of American exceptionalism, always present even in a time of crisis. In the end, though, it was historic because of what Obama represents, not for what was said. If he’s re-elected in four years’ time, I think we’ll hear a ‘real’ Obama speech.

My first favourite part was the following paragraphs, particularly the bolded parts:

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding 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 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.

Why these paragraphs? Because they go against everything the Bush administration stood for. And the cameras focused on GW Bush at the same time. Oh, the irony.

My second favourite part:

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.

The Huffington Post said Obama was admonishing Americans to “grow up.” I couldn’t help but think that same admonition should be given to his Canadian counterparts.

Six, the best part of the inauguaration was the benediction, and not because it meant the whole thing was over. I missed the Rick Warren bit (thank goodness because the man is one of those contradictory Christians, a thought I’ll need to expand on at some other point in time; to think I started reading ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ at one point), but I heard Rev. Joseph Lowery, and the man stole the show. The last couple of lines summed up what today signified more than anything else:

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around … when yellow will be mellow … when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen.

Amen.

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