Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I parked Meelyn and Aisling in front of the television today so that we could all watch the historic inauguration of the United States of America's first black president (I don't do terms like "African-American," because if I went that route, I'd have to use a string of mongrel titles a mile long to describe my own heritage and I just don't have the energy for committments like that.) I found it to be a very emotional thing, coming just one day after the country's remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Aretha Franklin, in a really fancy hat (Click here for a picture, courtesy of the LA Times), sang "My Country 'tis of Thee," echoing the words of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech. Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and two other famous musicians of whom I have never heard played a composition by John Williams written especially for the inauguration that contained bits and pieces from two songs we frequently sing in church, one being the hymn "Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones" (about the angels, archangels and all the saints in heaven gathered around the Throne of God) and the folk chorus "Lord of the Dance".I found this puzzling: Do you think there are some people out there who really do think that Barack Obama is the messiah?

I know there's that one lady I saw on the news who said that she was looking forward to seeing him elected because she wouldn't have to worry about how to fill her car's gas tank or how to raise the money to pay her mortgage anymore. She seemed to think that the office of the president would confer him with magical powers. I wonder if he agrees with her?

Yale poet/professor Elizabeth Alexander read a poem she had written for the occasion titled "Praise Song for the Day," which I thought had some powerful thoughts and interesting images, but which she read in a voice so overly enunciated and devoid of emotion that I felt like I was listening to her read the phone book. I'm sure she was nervy, but my gosh...Her robotic delivery ruined what I thought was actually a very fine tribute.

Praise song for the day.
Each day we go about our business,

walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not,
about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise.

All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din,
each one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform,
patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky;

A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth,
whispered or declaimed;
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of someone and then others who said,
"I need to see what's on the other side;
I know there's something better down the road."

We need to find a place where we are safe;
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,
picked the cotton and the lettuce,
built brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle;
praise song for the day.

Praise song for every hand-lettered sign;

The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love,
love beyond marital, filial, national.

Love that casts a widening pool of light.
Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.

Barack Obama seemed very, very nervous when he stood to take his oath of office, administered by SCOTUS Chief Justice John Roberts. I felt sorry for him when he stumbled over the words, remembering how hard it was, in my state of heightened excitement, to repeat my wedding vows. He got through it and looked relieved when it was over and who could blame him?

His inaugural speech was okay. I thought it seemed very full of the typical presidential platitudes and it occurred to me that his message of "Yes We Can!" has been somewhat tempered over the past two months into something more along the lines of "Yes We Can - But, Wow, It's Gonna Suck!"

As if agreeing with that assessment, stocks have plummeted today and the mood on Wall Street is very blue.

I didn't vote for Barack Obama because I my politics and his are poles apart. On the issue of abortion, I think his ideas are downright evil. On other topics, I think he's either a naive idealist or that he secretly does have magic powers like that lady in the YouTube video believes. He certainly has laid out some ambitious plans re: bridges, roads and power grids. It'll be interesting to see how many of his magnanimous campaign promises have to be abandoned by the wayside as the hard truths of the job he's undertaken begin to sink in. I imagine that's probably when we'll start to see his hair going gray, and for that, I feel a lot of compassion.

In spite of our political differences, I really do hope he succeeds in office. For the sake of the country, I hope our first black president will also be a great president. I hope he's more than just a sharp guy who makes good speeches.

I hope he's ready for this. Nothing in his resumé has convinced me that he is, and a lot of things in his resumé have convinced me that he is not the right man for right now.

But now is when we have him, and I hope his administration will be a good one that leads the country to a better place.

I also hope that his family will enjoy the experience of being the First Family. It's nice to think of young kids in the White House again. What an incredible day this must have been for them! I think Michelle Obama makes a beautiful First Lady -- she looked very beautiful and elegant in her gorgeous yellow brocade dress and coat. I didn't realize before how tall she is! I hope they find the family dog they all want and that next Christmas, they'll treat us to a doggie cam like Barney the terrier used to wear.

What a blessing it is to live in a place where the transition from one leader to the next is a peaceful and joyful occasion.


Kayte said...

I read that there was not one single incidence of reported crime with all those millions of people in Washington, D.C. that day...amazing in itself, don't cha think? It will be interesting to watch it all unfold.

Sinéad said...

I can't name anything good Obama has ever said. I admit, I didn't feel sorry when he messed up, but one thing I will say is that I pray for him. He is still a child of God, and I pray very hard for his conversion someday. But as for him being President? He is hardly American. His views on abortion are hardly humane.

Remember him at Mass, your daily prayers, and this Lent, I think we should do everything we can to sacrifice for his sake.