Saturday, January 24, 2009

Blog #72: The Ultimate Celebration

Ladies and gentlemen, after 82 years of observing the national scene, and through courtesy of the television screen, I have finally seen a day truly devoted to joy. It was the day of celebration for the inauguration of the 44th president of the United States. It could have been dubbed The Miracle of January 20th, 2009. For a miracle it truly was. And the above video, featuring Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen singing Woody Guthrie’s ode to America in the pre-inauguration ceremony, This Land is Your Land, captured the spirit and joy of this day as well as anything I have seen.

Imagine this if you will, a black man born of an African father and a white midwestern mother comes out of an Illinois nowhere to serve four years in the Senate, at least three of which he spent running for the United States‘ presidency. He survived a blistering primary campaign against Hilary Clinton (who much of the country viewed as a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination), and he further survived the Republican attack machine (which admittedly had its weapons aimed at Hillary Clinton, and were consequently caught off guard at Obama’s unprecedented

And would you believe he won the election by talking straight to, not down to people? Would you further believe he is an intellectual and proud of it? That he will guide and nurture the country with his compass tuned to what is scientific reality, not religious dogma. He is both a realist and a pragmatist. In his meteoric rise he built his following after conquering the internet and using its forces to forge his campaign, and now that he is president he plans to continue to use the web to continue his contacts outside the “bubble” and thereby further his agenda.
There are many remarkable things about this truly unique leader that the American people elected last November 4th with 53% of the popular vote. But to me the most remarkable thing of all is the way we the voters went against all of the odds, ignored all of the character smears and the attempts to damage Obama with that old bogey man, guilt by association. He not only survived the Republican attack machine, but he conquered it on his own terms. And so was the lovefest that was played out by the two million or so wildly happy celebrators who packed the Washington Mall Tuesday providing the most extraordinary public display of happiness that I have seen in my lifetime.

Of course one reason for the extreme adulation is that it is in contrast with the regime with preceded it. George W. Bush spent much of the waning days of his stewardship intent on trying to focus on positive aspects of his time in office. But in my lifetime the office of the presidency has never sunk lower. We even Richard Nixon tends to look squeaky clean in our collective memory after eight years of the rule of George W. Bush & company.

The adulation is not completely unanimous, of course. Extremists of the right still scream their skepticism. And, thank heavens, dear Rush (Mister Irrelevance) Limbaugh has publicly expressed the hope that Obama will fail, that his programs will join the fate of all of the causes Limbaugh favors, which have as one ended up on the scrap heap of the irrelevant. Mister Limbaugh is still and will always be forever irrelevant, the crackled, hoarse voice of the know-nothings and the disaffected. However any expression otherwise from radio’s rabble-rouser-in-chief would have been scary indeed. After all our world needs a certain amount of continuity if we are to retain our sanity.

The fact remains that the “less government will solve all of our problems” theology of the Ronald Reagan, and the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party is dead in the water. To begin with their ideals are Wrong, and have been ever since Ronald Reagan built up those tremendous deficits all the while preaching fiscal responsibility while surreptitiously trying to overthrow the government of Nicaragua. Phil Gramm’s removal of regulations governing the banking industry got him an enviable position as vice-chairman of the UBS Investment Bank, a gigantic Swiss based financial services company, a company which has been a massive benefactor from Gramm's financial positions while he was in the Senate. 2008 Nobel Laureate in Economics Paul Krugman described Gramm during the 2008 presidential race as "the high priest of deregulation," and has listed him as the number two person responsible for the economic crises of 2008, behind only Alan Greenspan. On October 14, 2008, CNN was a bit kinder, ranking Gramm at number seven on its list of the 10 individuals most responsible for the current economic crisis.

And so enough with the nay sayers and all of the other disgruntled followers of the power of ME, let the new team of WE step forward with their Blackberries and iPhones held high, and let us celebrate the birth of a brand new America, a united America celebrating science and truth for a change, not blind ideology. An American administration seeking practical solutions to problems, not stubborn ideological ones. It is indeed Morning in America, and fortunately for Americans and the world, this Morning is NOT Ronald Reagan’s Morning in America, but a truly new evolution of an American Morning in politics.

And number Forty-Four’s first few days as president have been days to remember, as he used day one to announce the closure of Guantanamo Bay prison, and to foreswear the use of torture in future interrogations. And popping over to the State Department he stood by while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the selection of former Senator George Mitchell as special envoy to the Middle East, and Richard C. Holbrooke as envoy for Afghanistan-Pakistan. Talk about coming out of the gate running . . .
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
One further note on the video above. This past Sunday, Pete Seeger became the oldest person to perform publicly as part of Barack Obama's inauguration festivities. Singing the "greatest song about America ever written" (Bruce Springsteen's words) before 500,000 people and tens of millions more on television, the 89-year old legend crooned two little-known verses of his friend Woody Guthrie's 1940 patriotic standard, "This Land is Your Land" – one about Depression-era poverty, the other about trespassing on private property – restoring the song to its former glory over the sanitized version that ruled for so many years. In passing we would like to note a movement to nominate Pete Seeger for a Nobel Peace Prize. A worthier cause I cannot imagine, for Pete Seeger has literally spent the bulk of his 89 years singing for peace, justice, and for the dignity of the common man. He had very little tv exposure because he was blacklisted, though he did make an appearance on a couple of Smothers Brothers TV programs several decades ago.
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
Evidently you and I weren’t the only ones following the celebrations on the Washington Mall on Tuesday. From the UK’s TimesOnline’s Graham Keeley in Barcelona we find out that there was praise for the new United States president from none other than from Fidel Castro:
“Fidel Castro broke his five-week silence to praise US President Barack Obama as a “man who is absolutely sincere.” You may ask what the relevance of this is, but it goes right along with President Obama’s intention to talk with our “enemies.” How successful this tactic will directly depend on how they view our president and his intentions. For Castro to heap the praise he has on Obama’s installation speaks well for the future success of Obama’s diplomatic moves.
“Mr Castro's first public utterance for over a month helped dispel persistent rumours that the ailing 82-year-old was close to death. He handed power to his brother, Raul, in 2006 after suffering health problems.
“His remarks were disclosed by Cristina Fernandez, Argentina’s President, who met the former Cuban leader during a four-day visit to the communist island. Mrs Fernandez said: “Fidel believes in Obama. He told me he had followed the inauguration of Barack Obama very closely, that he had watched the inauguration on television all day.

“He had a very good perception of President Obama.”

“The Argentine premier said Mr Castro called Mr Obama “a man who seems absolutely sincere, who believes strongly in his ideas and who hopefully can carry them out”. Mrs Fernandez added: “I was with Fidel about an hour or more. We were chatting, conversing. He looked good.”

“Hours later, in a brief essay posted on one of Cuba's state websites, Fidel Castro said Obama was “honest” in his ideas.

In a reference to the overthrow of Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista, by rebels led by Mr Castro, he wrote: “I personally did not have the slightest doubt about the honesty of Obama, the 11th president since January 1959, when he expresses his ideas. “But despite noble intentions, there are still many questions to answer.”

Mr. Castro said the meeting with Mrs Fernandez had lasted 40 minutes. He was dressed in the tracksuit, which has become his trademark since he became ill. Raul Castro, who took over the Cuban presidency 11 months ago, dismissed rumours about his brother’s health. “Do you think if he were really gravely ill that I would be smiling here?” he said. “Soon I’m going to take a trip to Europe. You guys think I could leave here if Fidel were really in a grave condition?”

Mr Castro, 77, disclosed that his brother spends his days “thinking a lot, reading a lot, advising me, helping me.” He added: “Now you know that Fidel is fine and not like the rumours around here."
To any who would question the relevance of listening to the words of Fidel Castro, we would remind them that a cornerstone of the Obama policy is dialogue with not only our friends, but also our so-called enemies. The Cuban Mafia, who left the island after Castro’s successful overthrow of the Batista regime, have been spewing their hatred of the Castro regime ever since. But peace between the island, 90 miles off the coast of Florida, will only come after a dialogue begins with the island’s leaders. We deal with the Saudi Royal Family, and many another out and out dictatorship in this less than perfect world, why not begin a dialogue with our closest neighbor to the south, Cuba?
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
And in the interests of getting to know Hillary Clinton’s replacement to the Senate from New York, below is a video that ran supporting her campaign for Congress. What a fun campaign commercial.

And there you have it for one of the most joyous weeks I have ever known. Sort of makes you want to hang around for a few more years to find out how it all comes out, doesn’t it? Bye now, hope you can come back next week.

The Real Little Eddy

No comments: