"I'm telling you, you're going to be seeing Obama blackshirts before very long," P said to me.
"I seriously doubt that," I responded with a chuckle.
It was late afternoon/early evening on Monday. The next day, at 12:00 noon, Barak Obama was to be sworn in as our 44th president. My associate P, a rather enjoyable and friendly guy, was relating his fears about the president elect and his incoming administration. At that moment, I understood that P, who can best be described as a libertarian, was re-hashing one of the more popular talking points that can be heard on right-wing talk radio and seen on similarly-oriented internet sites.
As for me, I'm neither a Republican nor a Democrat; this, while readily admitting to my belief that the Democratic Party holds to higher and more humanitarian ideals in general, than the Republican Party does. As a self-described leftist with a libertarian streak, I enjoy hearing comments such as those made by P. Being non-aligned helps me to keep an open mind about the opinions of others, and it helps me to look at events and situations without having to run my observations through the lens of dogma, political correctness of either the left or the right, or any stringent political philosophy. As such, I openly admit that I, as so many other millions of Americans, was overjoyed to observe the Inauguration of Barak Obama yesterday.
Of course, since the transition to the new administration began, I have had issues with some of the choices Mr. Obama has made as well as some of his stated policies. More specifically, I have long considered Hillary Clinton to be a warmonger that appears to be all too ready to bully other countries that will not knuckle under to our way of thinking. Further, I view her as being so biased toward Israel that as Secretary of State, she will be incapable of brokering a truly just peace between that country and the Palestinians. Our new president's stated policy toward Afghanistan troubles me as well. I keep thinking about the loss of so much innocent civilian life in that country due to bombing attacks upon villages; these, based solely upon the suspicion that a terror suspect may be there. I look at how much being bogged down in Afghanistan contributed to the fall of the Soviet Union and I ask myself if our chosen leader has thought about these things.
Still, listening to his Inaugural Address Tuesday, I couldn't help but feel elated. Finally, we have a president who addresses the American people as if we have some intelligence! Finally, we have a president that at least appears to have dignity and a conscience. In a mild reference to the tactics of the past administration and in my opinion, the jabs coming at him from the right, Mr. Obama said:
"On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.
"On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics."
"What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end...
"Power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous."
How can anyone not be inspired by words such as these? In the opinion of this writer, Mr. Obama cut right through all of the hollow arguments that the right has used against him - arguments such as his alleged desire to turn us into a socialist and therefore, dictatorial nation.
As I watched Tuesday's inaugural proceedings, it was difficult for me to look upon the thousands upon thousands of faces on the National Mall - faces that were inclusive of all races and ethnicities without having tearful eyes. Mr. Obama was correct in saying that his father, and by default, so many in that vast audience would not have gotten served in a restaurant sixty years ago. Gazing into the vast horde of people that attended this inaugural event, it was easy to experience their euphoria and jubilation. For some, it was the fulfillment of Dr. Martin Luther King's dream. For others, it was the sense that our eight-year nightmare has finally come to an end. Likely, for most that attended the event, and for myself, it was a combination of these things.
As with P and many others, there is a lack of appreciation for this feeling of euphoria that has overtaken so many Americans. I do realize that our new president is neither perfect, nor is he some sort of a savior. More likely than not, I will be one of the first to criticize some of his choices and actions. Still, after eight years of the Bush/Cheney administration, it is refreshing to have a new president who appears ready to get down to work, radiates dignity, and discusses issues honestly and intelligently. I wish him well as he now undertakes this most difficult job; I sure wouldn't want it.
Perhaps the best way to describe what I'm feeling today, after eight horrific years of Bush and Cheney, can be related through the lyrics of an old song. For me, the words are as pertinent now as they were when they first appeared in 1939:
Ding Dong! The Witch is dead. Which old Witch? The Wicked Witch!
Ding Dong! The Wicked Witch is dead.
Wake up - sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed.
Wake up, the Wicked Witch is dead.
She's gone where the goblins go,
Below - below- below, Yo'ho, let's open up and sing and ring the bells out.
Ding Dong' the merry-oh, sing it high, sing it low.
Let them know
The Wicked Witch is dead.
Photo: New York Times - http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2009/01/20/us/20090120SWEARINGIN_10.html