Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I don't know what to say today.

What I really don't know -- except that it looks too sappy when I type it out -- is what my mother would be saying about all this.

Mom was a moderate Republican, and deeply distrustful of both the mainstream media and cults of personality -- but I think that even she would have been moved and inspired by what's happening today, would have seen the hope and the promise and the sincere goodwill pouring out for the Obamas and this country. I missed her so much during the election campaign, and I miss her even more today. I wish she could have lived to see this, just so I could argue with her about it.

No matter what your political views, you have to see today as a triumph of the American system, of the promise that opportunity is available to everyone, even the son of an African goatherd.

For some weird reason I've had this in my head for the last 24 hours, so I'll post it here, and we can all sing along. Happy Inauguration Day, everybody, and God bless America.


Ed Lamb said...

I can't help but think that Obama taking the oath of office as president of the United States is the most significant political event of my lifetime.

So of course I scheduled an interview for an article I'm writing at the exact time that Obama will be putting his hand on Lincoln's bible.

AnswerGirl said...

Doh! Can't you reschedule? Whomever you're interviewing probably didn't realize the conflict, either...

Karen Olson said...

I'm going to be CNNing online at noon at work. I was surprised when two coworkers told me this morning that there's no way Obama can live up to expectations and they don't think he's going to change anything at all.

Hello?? With him taking that oath, we've already moved lightyears away from the last eight years.

AnswerGirl said...

The executive order against torture is change enough for the first day.

Kevin Wignall said...

I watched some of it on TV. I was baffled to hear Aretha Franklin singing what seemed to be a pub-singer's version of the British National Anthem. What was that?

At first, I was slightly underwhelmed by Obama's address, but I think he actually struck a good balance between expectation and reality check.

The only slightly sour note was when he told the world that America was ready to lead again. Surely the single greatest lesson of the Bush era is that the world doesn't want America to lead, it wants it to participate. If he really wants to send a message to the world, his first meeting with a foreign statesman should be with Ban Ki-Moon.

Beyond that, though, as Karen said, if he does nothing else he's already achieved something amazing. And of course, he'll do plenty more...

AnswerGirl said...

Kevin, you did NOT just disrespect Aretha Franklin.

I didn't think that Obama was talking about America leading in the sense of our bossing other countries around. I don't think that our new President aspires to that, and anyway we no longer have the resources to try.

But you can't look at today's events without acknowledging a certain American exceptionalism. Where else, in what other country, would today's events be possible?

Kevin Wignall said...

I love Aretha Franklin, but it has to be said, her words were indistinct and the tune IS the same as our national anthem (I heard someone else playing it, so do tell, what is it?). I've spoken to other people here today who were - not in a mocking way - completely baffled by that aspect of it.

I accept your reading of his words. And I'm not one of those people who denies that American Hegemony has been a key factor for the last fifty years or so.

I sort of disagree with you about the exceptionalism, and this comes from someone who is a huge fan of American culture, as you know. All countries think of themselves as exceptional. I think England is about as exceptional as countries come, but I can see perfectly well why Swedes and Italians and Japanese and Australians think exactly the same about their countries.

All that said, and at the risk of repeating myself, yesterday was the expression of an amazing achievement on so many levels, and I think Americans everywhere have every reason to be proud of their country and what it represents.

AnswerGirl said...

It's funny that you don't know this -- the song she sang was indeed the melody of "God Save the Queen," but Americans stole it in the early 19th century, with new lyrics by a young Baptist minister named Samuel French Smith (who later, by the way, had a church in Waterville, ME, so Maine claims him).

The official name of our version of the song is "America," but everyone here calls it "My Country, 'Tis of Thee," because those are the first words of the song as we sing it:

My country, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims' pride,
From every mountainside,
Let freedom ring.

My native country, thee,
Land of the noble free,
Thy name I love;
I love thy rocks and rills,
Thy woods and templed hills;
My heart with rapture thrills,
Like that above.

It goes on like that for several verses; I memorized at least four of them for extra credit in fourth grade. Schoolchildren here learn the song before they learn our national anthem, which is much harder to sing.

It's also where I first learned that handy Scrabble word "rill."

Kevin Wignall said...

The tune is also used for the national anthem of Lichtenstein, I think, and possibly one other.

Thanks for the info, though - I really hadn't heard it before.

Anonymous said...

And what a joy to have "Constitution Rock" to greet the great day. Hard to know whether this or "I'm just a Bill" is my favorite! We were up early here in Asia to watch the inaugural festivities. I am now officially my parents--I made the kids get up too and told them "watch this, it's important." Certainly a more festive day than when I was told to watch MLK's funeral, the Watergate hearings and Nixon's resignation. Hope can take us a long way.


AnswerGirl said...

It's funny, I was just remembering the Nixon inaugural the other day -- because it was a one-two punch with Mom putting us in front of the TV, first to watch the inauguration and then to watch LBJ's funeral a couple of days later.

I do not remember watching Martin Luther King's funeral on TV, but I remember that we could smell the smoke from the fires in downtown Norfolk. It may be my earliest memory -- I was two, and it was very close to Easter, because we got our puppy right around the same time. Funny the things the mind puts together.

Moira said...

Great post. Personal, sad, and funny.

I also loved revisiting "The Constitution." I have a theory that these groovy, progressive campaigns, along with shows like Free To Be You and Me have much more to do with America electing it's first black president, than the "Huxtable Effect."

I think Morgan Freeman as Easy Reader on the Electric Company may be more significant than Bill Cosby.

Rosie Greer crying...that was major.