Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Age of Obama commencing in 5... 4... 3... 2...

Well, yesterday was a great day for America, and I mean that in all sincerity. I can't imagine standing there on the capitol steps and looking out at a crowd of a million people, all of them waiting to hear what I had to say. And then, when you consider the millions around the world watching on television... it's amazing. I mean, you better get it right. You're the president. You are America now.

I had a million things to say about the address and found it all utterly fascinating, but I am so swamped with things this week that I have no time to expound upon it. I will say that I thought Rick Warren's prayer was excellent, where I didn't expect it to be. I wonder what all the findamentalist Muslims and Jew-hating Arabs and secular Europeans thought of all that Jesustalk. What must they think of this country, the most powerful country in the world, and the God it worships? And for Warren to close with the Lord's Prayer was unique, thoughtful, brazen, and profound. I loved it.

I listened to that great triumverate of right-wing talk radio hosts all day yesterday; Dennis Prager, Michael Medved and Hugh Hewitt. Prager was the most critical, surprisingly, calling the speech "uninspiring". Medved was in the middle, calling it "platitudinous". He said that the speech itself was in no way a great one, but that it was delivered greatly. And Hewitt said that it was a great day for America and that all Americans should be proud. The three had a lot of truly interesting comments and guests. A good day for conservative talk radio, if you're into that sort of thing.

Me, I thought the speech was "pretty good". There were some fine statements, shrewdly inserted on Obama's part, that appealed to the conservative in me:

We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you... To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.


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. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Unfortunately, I don't believe the death-loving barbarians living in the caves of Afghanistan have any intention of "unclenching" their fists, or are ever capable of it. And neither do I believe politicians ever really "end" any programs, which is like stopping boulders after you push them down a hill. But anyway, it was nice to hear!

Then there were some ughh moments. Prager pointed out the nonsense of this statement:

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.

Sounds good, right? I guess. Until you analyze the words and consider the philosophical construct. Has security ever "emanated" from the justness of a cause? Never in history. How many people with their just causes have been mass murdered over the years? Has security ever emanated from the force of one's example? Uh, no. A strong example of something good is just another thing on the list of things a tyrant desires to destroy. Has security ever emanated from the tempering qualities of humility and restraint? Look, Prager noted, if you put a sign on your front door that says that your house is secured by your "humility" and "restraint", you'll be the first on the block to get robbed. Anyway, empty sentences like that, with their mindless lyricism, only impress college professors and those not paying attention.

And then there was all the talk of a "new era of responsibility", which I am totally for, but in the same breath it's the government who "helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified," so I guess I don't have to be that responsible after all. I mean, why should I have to bother to find my own work to support my family, take care of my own health, and save for my dignified retirement? Let the government do it!

That being said, the message overall was a strong one of hope, and that is very good. Our nation should be that shining light of hope in the world. And people love the man, Obama, who looked altogether proud, in command, and strong up there on the steps -just a stone's throw from where slaves were bound, chained and sold a few hundred years ago. And, though not a descendent of American slaves, he is black and that means something. Man has the capacity to change. If in sixty years our mostly white country can go from segregation to voting a black into the White House (which was partially built with slave labor), then we may very well see a reformed Islam or a democratic China in our lifetime. That is a hopeful thought! (But I won't hold my breath. China edited all that stuff about "communism" and the "wrong side of history" out of the speech transcript on their Internet yesterday.)

Anyway, it was moving. America is the best place on the planet. Dictators around the world get older and older every day, but our leaders stay fresh and young forever. We rotate them out like smart bakers do their donuts.

Yesterday was a great day for America, indeed. And today is a great day in America, as every day in America is, despite the circumstances. Americans are not conquerors, but liberators. And good Americans see the world from the vantage point of liberty, and through the prism of our blessings, so that there is always hope. We hold these and other truths to be self-evident, where only a solemn few other countries do.