Courtesy of A+S’s Inaug party (great idea – thanks again), we watched the Inaug live on BBC, though I had to leave before the post-match analysis. I enjoyed it – it was a good show. His speech was well delivered, rousing even, if not great. It was interesting, very listenable, and said some good things. I guess you can get the text of the address from any number of places; wikisource has it, conveniently only two clicks away from El Shrubbo’s. And there is the problem: GWB says many nice things too. Who said While many of our citizens prosper, others doubt the promise, even the justice, of our own country. The ambitions of some Americans are limited by failing schools and hidden prejudice and the circumstances of their birth; and sometimes our differences run so deep, it seems we share a continent, but not a country. We do not accept this, and we will not allow it. Our unity, our union, is the serious work of leaders and citizens in every generation; and this is my solemn pledge, “I will work to build a single nation of justice and opportunity.” The answer, of course, is Bush. He was lying; only time will tell about Obama.
Highlights of the show:
* When Obama said As for our common defense, we accept as false the choice between our safety and our ideals the screen cut to a stony-faced Bush for a second or two. Everyone laughed (at him). That can only be a promise to give up torture and the other evils of the Bush presidency; lets hope Obama lives up to it.
* At In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing we all laughed and said “that’s us!” (that was OK though; our real foreign policy mistake was failing to support the South in the civil war).
* Joseph Lowery and his may the yellow be mellow. Though apparently its not new, it sounded great.
Reading the entrails, from my own narrow perspective:
* each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet – recognises global warming, I suppose, but in a way that will offend no-one.
* We will restore science to its rightful place – a dig a Bush’s politisation of science, perhaps, and a promise to do better.
* We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories – alternative energy; good. Biofuel boondoggles; bad.
There was lots of stuff about Hard Choices. That was good; now is a time to promise such stuff, and it makes it harder for people to complain later if you do make such choices. But there was no clarity about what the Hard bits might turn out to be; so we’ll have to wait to see. Reaching out to the Muslim world was good too. He even made a token nod towards the atheists: We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers. Though somehow or other, in a land that pretends to believe in seperation of church and state, it was all very christian.
The poem… tricky stuff, poems. I wasn’t impressed, nor were the folks around me. Apparently its not common to have a poem; this is only the fourth time; and it doesn’t come close to the Gift Outright [Update: its here. On second thoughts, I think much the same. Don’t get professors to write poetry]. Although, if that link is to be believed, Frost had a lucky escape from “Dedication”. So I leave you with:
The land was ours before we were the land’s.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia.
But we were England’s, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak.
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.
[This has had lots of comments, thank you. But they are starting to repeat. I’m going to be more aggressive in deleting attempts to get the last word -W]