Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
— Barack Hussein Obama, 44th President of the Unites States, Inaugural Address, January 20, 2009
And that's about where I got something in my eye. Again. In front of half my co-workers who'd gathered around the TeeVee to watch the swearing-in ceremony because, as one wag put it, "You gotta see it live instead of later on today. The first way is living it, the second way is missing history."
So, there we were in mini-party mode watching the whole thing between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Or, as another one of my co-workers said, "I think it's safe to say that national productivity dropped down to absolute zero between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. (EST), so let's take advantage."
Both men and women in the room decided that Aretha Franklin is still a stone fox, because only a stone fox could be fierce enough for that fabulous hat.
Aside from the Inaugural (get to more of that in a minute), I have to pause for this important bit of cool:
The new White House Web site. Sure, it isn't exactly new to anyone who visited Obama for America or the Transition Web site back in the day, but I love the fact that they've stuck with that simple, intuitive design. It makes it seem more...friendly...somehow.
And, oooo, look! It comes with a blog!
Unbelievable. I have a president that's close enough to my age that he not only uses communication tools I'm familiar with, but he seems to know how to actually use them. I'll be interested to see how the administration actually uses the blog going forward.
Where was I? Oh, the Inauguration Address.
A lot of us were happy when Obama specifically said "men and women" and acknowledged that atheists could, in fact, be considered American citizens in good standing. Believe, the fact that "non-believers" were specifically mentioned in a positive light next to religious groups did not go unnoticed or unremarked. I think a couple of my co-workers did a fist bump in celebration.
If nothing else, it washed the bad taste Rick Warren's dead run for Christianity left in our mouths. I, personally, don't object to "The Lord's Prayer," although I should note that it was a version of "The Lord's Prayer" that is only used in various Protestant forms of Christianity. I blame my Catholic school upbringing for my knee-jerk dislike for this version, but it's only because I find it less poetic.
You might say that by slipping "The Lord's Prayer" in there, Warren not only dissed non-Christians, he pretty much dissed Catholics and Orthodox Christians with that move. Please understand that half my office is Jewish. Of the half that isn't, it's split between agnostics, outright atheists, Unitarian Universalists, cafeteria Catholics, and liberal Christians. So I'm not exaggerating when I say that no one in my office looked uncomfortable with Warren's move at the end. There were an awful lot of hunched shoulders and teeth gritting. Me included.
As for that Inaugural Address — dayum. I know. Very eloquent, but that's all I can still think of to say. It's so refreshing to have a president that assumes that we're all adults here, and is willing to actually talk to us like we're rational human beings. Awww, hell. I'm just relieved to have a president that actually speaks English.
The other thing I love-love-loved the address for: At long last science and empirical data are going to be employed when making policy decisions. After 8 years of "going by the gut" and giving Christianists waaaaaay too much say in public policy — not to mention the lovely tactic of using both flag and bible as a vicious club to beat down people who disagreed with public policy — it'll be nice to once again place science and provable objective fact back in the centerpiece of good government.
I cannot express the sheer relief just hearing that in the Inaugural Address gave me. I can't. In the middle of my co-workers, I came very close to breaking down into a hail of tears.
aaaawwww hell, i got something in my eye again
Hearing that we're finally going to throw out religious dogma and again rely on science and objective fact to make decisions, I just...I just...
I know that this is an odd thing to focus on, but hearing it...it was like...it was like...
Have you ever held your breath a long, long time? Say, when you were underwater? Or because you were doing it on a dare? Or because you had to hold your breath for an X-ray?
And they keep telling you to hold it...hold it...hold it....
And you don't think you can do it any more, but they keep telling you to hold it. They keep telling you long after your face turns red and you start seeing spots in front of your eyes.
Then suddenly they tell you that it's okay to take a deep breath.
And when you do, it's with this overwhelming sense of relief, because goddamn, you can breathe sweet, sweet oxygen again!
Hearing our new president stress the importance of science over religious dogma was just like that. That right there was like getting that perfect glass of water after being 8 years in the desert.
'scuse me, i think i got more of that same something in my eye
Personally, if he manages make 25% of his promises a reality, I'll be calling him the Best. President. Ever.
The hell with that. The fact that science, real honest-to-god science, and rationalism and secular enlightenment will be seen as positives and the key to good government already puts him head and shoulders of The Recent Evictee.
I think I'm just going to spend the rest of the week randomly hugging people.
I can be cynical next week.