President Barack H. Obama was sworn into office two days ago for a second consecutive term. A reenactment of the inauguration took place yesterday before massive crowds.
It was a good day for some Americans and a lousy one for others. It should have been an auspicious day for everyone, a chance to start anew, whatever one’s creed. Every new term brings new opportunity to the table. Once every four years is a window not to be missed.
But to everyone’s detriment, the old divisions remained. Like a conflicted trireme, heaving and ho-ing without coordination, giving new meaning to the term ‘row’, America is locked in interal conflict, going round in circles, making the journey impossible. A ship of such caliber needs a common purpose and good discipline to make headway. Without coordination, it is at the mercy of the elements, as are its crew and passengers.
Does my statement fall flat? Does it sound important without saying much? Maybe. Statements of lofty nature sound good on paper, while discounting the complexities of the real world.
Unfortunately, that is how much of president Obama’s speech sounded. Carefully articulated and flawlessly delivered, it was a declaration of faith in America’s founding principles, wrapped up in a promise to safeguard everyone’s rights, under God and country. By committing to everything noble and admirable, he promised to ensure opportunity and prosperity for all men and women, to change the means to the coveted end, while preserving the enterprising purpose of the nation. Suave, smooth, and essentially meaningless.
Unless you are an immigrant, who never got a break in life, who came to the US in search for opportunity. In your case the words spoken yesterday were probably enough to instill hope in you, firing you up in ways that will make you withstand a thousand hardships over the coming years. The promise of a brighter future, one in which you will have a say, can only be embraced. And embrace it you have, starting with this speech.
The same applies if you are a woman. The promise to regard society with fairness, making sure that none of the God-inspired machismo that kept your kind chained to the kitchen sink can resurface, must be comforting. The pledge to care for the unfortunate and elderly should appeal to your empathetic instincts. America may not be repressive to your gender anymore – it has in fact come a long way over the years, its women now proud of what they have achieved and secure about who they are – but it sure as hell feels good to know that you are being recognized in your own right.
Homosexuals may have experienced the same exhilaration. No longer is homosexuality a miasma. Gay people are officially recognized as equals in a society that preaches and practices love for all, without double standards. Respect for everyone, including you, is something that will open your life to new opportunities, affording you the chance to live without having to justify your sexual preferences.
An enabled people are an able people, free to tackle the worst of situations, all because they have the best to hope for
Yes, there is method to the suaveness. It is common sense at work, taking the initiative and declaring before the entire world that a commitment to the cause of the disavowed and marginalized, of the unfortunate and oppressed, is not just policy; it is a responsibility. The moral imperative that flows from the constitution of the nation to the paths ahead reminds everyone that an enabled people are an able people, free to tackle the worst of situations, all because they have the best to hope for. The future may not be perfect, but it will be better than the past, and that is good enough. Lofty the words may be, and meaningless in political terms they may ring, for talk is cheap and Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they are important enough to inspire the disillusioned to action.
Those who know anything about politics, society, greatness and prosperity are aware that inspiring the disillusioned seizes the day. The bitterness brewing inside those comprising the heartland of a country can turn toxic, corroding a nation from the inside out, if left unattended. Care must be taken as well as given. Tending to the individual wounds, to the collective pain, turns anguish to strength, to hope, to a pledge for a sounder world, imperfect as it may be. The system is not only relieved from dangerous pressure; it is reinvigorated.
Let us focus on this positive note, naive as it may be. We all know that Barack Obama is not the leader he was made out to be. He has been gravely disappointing, a big bang that never materialized. But he has charisma, which resonates with many people, and that counts for something. In an age of economic and cultural crisis, it is a valuable asset to have, especially when the alternatives are either lackluster and bland or overflowing with bile.
Truth is, the audacity of hope has come and gone. In its place now stands the pain of restructuring, the harsh reality behind the lofty promises. So let it happen. The challenges ahead are grave enough to warrant a crack at it, no matter the height of the task.
It is worth the effort, when looking at the bigger picture. The time has come for transcending our limitations, reaching into areas never before tackled. For the first time in our species’ history a pledge has been made for humanity not to act as stewards to a country, or to a nation, or to the world. For the first time in history a world leader has called for responsible action to be taken for the sake of our planet, in the name of neither dogma nor ideology, but of raw pragmatism. Necessity has been identified and recognized, and the call made. Embrace the new technology and lead the way into a changing future, adapting to the environmental fluctuations, like survivors, the president said in so many words, and we shall be worthy of our legacy.
It is a potent and meaningful statement that applies beyond America, to every part of the globe. It encapsulates the future in ways that both respect and preserve it. Survival, success, sound reason, and the ability to see the coming change, and be a step ahead of it, like a true Homo Sapiens, is what it’s all about. The topic should concern everyone, both women and men, be they rich, poor, conservative, liberal, immigrant, naturalized, straight, homosexual, educated, underprivileged, believers, atheists, agnostics, homesteaders or renegades. Words may be cheap, but timidity is cheaper, and so is fanaticism. Sometimes the cheesiest, corniest, most cliché statements contain the greatest truths, shaping the time to come.
‘The journey is not complete,’ Obama declared. He was right. There is still a long way to go.
Isn’t it a beautiful thing? Would you rather have run out of destiny?
Here is the full inauguration speech.