For a Change

Casey McKinney


It’s been a historic week. Just about anyone with a pulse and an ounce of heart heaved an overwhelming sigh of relief as we watched George W. Bush’s subdued farewell shimmy up the steps of Marine 1 on Tuesday. Haven’t seen a precise read on the final numbers yet, but last I heard it was something like 85% disapproving of our lame duck in chief, the worst in recorded history.  So adios asshole.  And like I said, that’s speaking unbiased, I mean it’s statististical, statustescular, oh damn this spell check, Bush, our great cunning linguist, well he’ll know what I mean.

Anyway, the previous weekend saw crowds in D.C. celebrating to the sounds of an array of musicians, including 89 year old folk music godfather Pete Seeger who belted out Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Bruce Springsteen and a full hallelujah chorus backed him up, and the sight seemed to portend a return of civil liberties and openness that (I hope) will return with the new administration, as Seeger, long harassed by HUAC and blacklisted in the entertainment business for alleged communist devotion, didn’t blink as he sang Guthrie’s controversial private property stanza.

On Tuesday many more came together, over 2 million on the Capital Mall to witness, in part, the promise of our founding fathers––long denied to so many of America’s people––of justice and equality for all. 80 years and a day after the birth of Martin Luther King Jr. and some 45 years after he delivered his “Dream” speech in Washington, Obama, America’s first African American elected to the executive office, laid his hand on Lincoln’s inaugural bible, looked a tongue tied Chief Justice John Roberts in the eye, and swore to “faithfully” (putting faithfully in its right order) uphold the Constitution.

This was a day for healing for sure (though of course not all wounds were reconciled––Jimmy Carter snubbed the Clintons, turning his back on them on his way to his seat for the inauguration). And the crowd was ebullient. I mean so completely in tune, that…well usually when I see a crowd this gaga over anyone (race, sex, etc aside), I’m thinking what’s the catch? I mean Brutus should have seen Antony’s speech coming you know?  But then that’s the contrarian in me, and I haven’t lived long enough to have known any successful politician I’d trust.  I can only assume that had one of the Kennedy’s, John or Robert, had either lived longer themselves, that our country might be in a better place today.

So far all I can say is I trust Obama and I’m rooting for him to do things differently…vastly differently than his predecessors in charge. The somber direction of his inauguration speech, and his actions in the first two days speak to his earnestness. He’s even got Christopher Hitchens dancing for a democrat again, but as Hitchens warned in his final defense of Bush posted Monday on Slate, “there’s an element of hubris in all this current hope-mongering.”  I agree, but it was a hope long deferred. Hope deserved a damn good day, but now it’s back to work.