Wednesday, January 21, 2009

and so it starts, with lots of words.

can we believe in this man?

so i stayed up and watched the inauguration. once everybody had arrived, the actual swearing in ceremony was quite quick. like princess diana, obama muddled the words of the oath, but it seems that was because the chief justice got in a mix. it was an endearingly human moment.

a snapshot of my impressions:

- first, let's get the cosmetic out of the way. why did michelle wear that outfit? the avocado green gloves were distracting and the glitter of her dress and coat, with strange ribbon-tie seemed inappropriately glitzy, and the colour was bad. this girl is gonna go down bigtime as the fashion vultures have been circling, squawking since she wore that "butcher's apron" on election night. also, she has some serious posture problems going on. she looks like a tall woman trying not to be. i'm sure she'll settle into it. he already looks the part, michelle just doesn't yet. but she's got the makings.

- i was glad to see obama in an overcoat, and i was interested to note he didn't wear a scarf, unlike bush. i suppose bush had nothing to prove, but after just watching the end of west wing, where santos didn't wear an overcoat to his inauguration, as a show of "youth and vigour", it was something i looked out for. he wore a red tie, while others adopted purple (ie the senior bushes) purportedly as a sign of bipartisanship (purple = a blend of red and blue). the clintons had yellow accents - from memory, a scarf for bill and earrings for hillary.

- the kids had obviously NOT been told to sit up straight, be on your best behaviour. and i like that. they were natural kids, fidgeting and the oldest one malia bowed her head a few times, and had her eyes open during the prayers

- the pastor who spoke first, rick warren, is already receiving some criticism for concluding with the lord's prayer. one thing i noticed was in his listing of jesus' akas, he pronounced a word "isa". the transcript of his speech has it written as "esau" who actually was, according to wiki, the son of rebekah and isaac, not jesus. the word "isa" is the arabic word for "jesus", and is in the koran as so.

- the other pastor who spoke, the reverend joseph lowery, all i have to say about him is he the man.

 "Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around . . .. . . when yellow will be mellow . . .. . . when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right."

the delivery of this part of his benediction was timed perfectly, and he had everyone smiling if not laughing at his racial commentary schtick.

- the poetess, elizabeth alexander, who delivered her poem, was stilted and robotic, perhaps an effect of speaking in front of millions, and perhaps also a result of her intention to be plain and clear. her words were prosaic, not flowery, and while some are criticising this, i think it rendered her words all the more poignant. they were stark, they were plain, they were clear. an omen perhaps of what is to come with the obama administration?

- i thought an olive branch was extended to the muslim community, as well, or an indication of inclusion. i also liked that non-believers were also included by obama. we were last on the list, but it's better than being left out. i also noticed that when obama was introduced, it was as barack h. obama. strange, i thought, is it meaningful? i wondered. i was sure clinton had been introduced with his full middle name. but later, during the swearing in, "hussein" was spoken. maybe there was no getting around it, and a president elect's full name must be used.

- obama's address, too, was plain and clear. he spoke without the "soaring rhetoric" and i for one was glad. i felt he wasn't trying to use the moment for his own personal glory, to feed the ego, to butter people up with words. one writer has said the speech presented "the most sophisticated view of the world and our role in it of any inaugural address in history" and without being able to compare, i instinctively agree. this is a man, who because he has spent a lot of time figuring out where he belongs in the world, and who because he is bi-cultural and bi-racial with more fluid and multiple identities than most of us, has a handle on many perspectives. he has an overview of the world, of america and of himself that few (if any) u.s. presidents have before him. he has an understanding of what it means to be different, to feel like you don't quite belong anywhere, but can manage to belong everywhere. this layering of identities is something that will be a great asset for him; strength in hybridity, and his ability to move between worlds. "passing" is a loaded term; it implies some sort of subterfuge or deceit, that a person who is half black and half white can be equally as comfortable or effective in both environments. but barack obama is a human bridge who will hopefully use his knowledge and understanding of how the world works and how identity and power works, to fix things.

and oh my, i could see no tele-prompter, no notes. he was just talking, speaking, as if discussing his ideas (well thought out, and well prepared) with a bunch of people, asking for their help, telling them what needed to be done. i bet he has been thinking about how to fix his country, if not the world, for years. this is a man who lives in his head alot, but who also is such a fine writer and communicator, that he can translate his ideas well. his voice is rich and beautifully accented, no evidence of the hoarseness that dogged clinton, another great communicator.

it's a big ask, expecting one man to fix the world, and anything can go wrong. i hope that politics don't get in the way too much, and i hope that his slim shoulders can carry the load for all of us, for the whole world. everybody loves hope, hell, we can't help ourselves.


Anonymous said...

It just feels good to have hope.
Big symbols can do that. More than policy thus far it seems.
Good point of BHO's understanding of 'difference' in the world.
Thanks for the blog. As always most interesting and engaging.

Melba said...

Hope is a biggie, Dave. Thanks for your nice comment.