Tuesday, January 20, 2009

So What Happens Next?

He said the right words. With all the right tones. But we've always known that Obama could deliver a speech. Now comes the hard part. Delivering on all his promises. The older I get, the more I realize that words are like the waves of the ocean. Ebbing and flowing with the tides. Real, but elusive, and never quite what they seem. Good ol' adages don't get more trite than "actions speak louder than words". They also don't get truer.

My initial reaction to the Inauguration, believe it or not, was one of foreboding. As a student of Russian history, Obama's fumbling of the oath recalled the coronation of the Russian Czar Nicholas II in 1896 when the chain of the Order of St. Andrew fell from his shoulders in an ominous sign. (The Dow plunging below 8000 was another.) The parades, the balls, the luncheons and dinners--all in excess of $150 million--at a time when people are losing their jobs, their homes, their health insurance, their educations seemed a bit, well, excessive. Again, there was a parallel to Nicholas and Alexandra. When hundreds of people, including women and children, died in a stampede at a celebration of Nicholas' crowning, the Emperor and Empress chose to dance at a ball that very evening, giving rise to criticisms of heartlessness.

Obama came to power with a mantra of change. I really want to like this President. I really do. But so far, the only change that I've seen is the way he raised money for his campaign through the Internet, something no other President had done before. I've seen his picks for his Cabinet. They're mostly people from the Clinton era. No change there. He's had to hedge his promise to end the war in Iraq right away. That's not a good change. And now he's about to embroil us in Afghanistan for the next five years, an issue he managed to effectively skirt on the campaign trail, but which endorsement now seems not just a little disingenous. (Did the Russians getting their asses kicked by the Afghanis in 1980 not teach us anything?)

I doubt I'm raining on Obama's parade. After all, I'm just one voice. No one's going to hear this amidst the throngs of cheers and cries of jubilation. But tomorrow those sounds will be gone. And the sounds of the stock market crashing will continue. I remember people genuinely liked Bush when he was elected to his first term. Honest. Approachable. Folksy. Down-to-earth. These were the things people were saying about him. Today he looked like an old, defeated man disappearing into the cold, winter day. I seriously hope Obama gets through his tenure in better shape. As much as he stood for a symbol of change today, I can honestly say that I honestly don't know--nobody knows--what he will stand for tomorrow.

3 comments:

Luuworld said...

i share your concern. let's keep our fingers crossed...

Raven said...

You're not alone in feeling a sense of foreboding, although for me it isn't specifically linked to Inauguration Day.

Since you bring up Russian history, I think we should be studying Russia and other countries that have gone through severe economic upheaval. We need to learn from them. Because I really don't want to watch their history repeated here.

On the other hand, I have friends who lived through Russia's recent economic turmoil, so I know it can be done and to a certain extent I even know how individuals can do it. But it isn't fun.

J.T. said...

Raven,

If history teaches us one thing, it's that people learn nothing from history. Over and over we fight the same wars. Over and over we fall in love with the wrong kinds of people. Over and over we fall into the trap of thinking that money (and now technology) is going to solve all of humanity's problems.

America thinks it can deficit-spend its way out of its problems. Not likely. The problems we've created stem from a lack of morals, ethics and values. Money, for all its worth, can't make a single person any more honest than he already is.