The Glair - The People of Tomorrow
Today, during lunch, I watched the inauguration of Barack Obama, with my two daughters (who are themselves of a genetically interracial nature – though I find the term interracial more amusing than descriptive). It was a far more interesting ceremony than I had expected. He also gave a speech that was, if somewhat weak at points, and far too wonkish in general, really rather good I thought.
One thing that struck me positively about the language he employed, and I am not a big proponent, by any stretch of the imagination, of most of Mr. Obama’s publicly stated policy objectives (as opposed to what his real objectives may or may not be), is that in some respects it was very difficult to decide if the man was a Republican, or a Democrat. That is to say, if you had only heard the inaugural speech, and knew nothing of the past history of the man or his political affiliations, then you would be hard pressed to decide whether the man was a Republican or Democrat. In some ways the man is a frustrated preacher, more an inspirational leader than a political maven. (Though his political skills can be impressive from time to time, far less so at other times.)
And perhaps that is a good thing in a way. For policy positions and political ideals, no matter how good, true, and promising often suffer from what I like to call, “stagnation of application.” Meaning that no matter how good an idea (of any kind) or ideal (of any type) is, it can often fail to materialize in a meaningful way through calcified and determined methods of stagnant application. The idea or ideal is good, even true, just, and necessary, but the means by which it is executed and applied becomes so moribund, so inextricably bound within a Gordian knot of tradition and habitual reflex, that it cannot possibly grow, adapt, change, and progress in a useful and efficient manner. Tied to a dead method, few ideals can live well. Inspirational leaders sometimes serve a far more important primary and historical role than that of mere administrator or competent executive. They cut away obstacles in ways not previously foreseen.
The trouble with Obama as a leader though, as I see it, is simply that he honestly still believes his own rhetoric. This will not last for long I imagine and I can already see the increase in the number of grey hairs on his head. When men are young or young at heart, as Obama is, and filled with vim and vinegar, honed sharp or dull (as the case may be) on rhetoric and ideal, they often mistake high-minded intentions and virtuous motivations with accomplishment and wisdom. They think they know far more than they really do, both about the world at large, and about some human hearts. No matter how humble the inner nature, the mind tricks the man into mistaking the mirage of a kind of arrogant certitude with the actuality of practical reality. The obverse of this position of course is the man who is advanced with age and experience thinking that every young man should know as much as they do, for the older man having learned his lessons in the withering kiln of pragmatic circumstance, often forgets to remember than at some day in the past they were likewise just as naïve as the individual they look suspect upon. C’est la vie, c’est l' homme.
Nevertheless there is a quality to the man (Obama) I very much admire. He is not weak and retiring. The scale of his ambition is great, he may very well attempt much often, and often much more than is really possible. Especially given the fickle and febrile nature of federal and national politics.
But will he attempt the right things in the right way? Will he be motivated by the right principles and will he execute those principles in some effective and virtuous manner? If change is a destination, then quo vadis? Only time and history will judge. Excepting of course, so will the American people (as determined by his actual actions), and since he has voluntarily set for himself such a large international stage, that he intends to please both allies and enemies alike, so also will much of the rest of the world. He who demands to be judged surely will be.
Still, gauged simply from the figurative flourishes of his initial Presidential speech I cannot help but think that many around the world were stunned by the less than modest vision he has of our nation, and of the past and future character of the United States of America. In that respect I can truthfully say, “I’m right there with you brother.” We still are the last best hope. And just to be honest, we’ve usually been the first best hope. As far as go the profound limits of this world, anyway.
The people of the United States are, in this world, the People of Tomorrow. Not without a past, but never shackled to it. Not without a present, but never limited by it. We will demand, and certainly deserve, a leader who understands this fundamental quality of our nature. Or at least a leader who can come to understand this inherent quality within us, and temper himself by that lodestone.
So, as the symbolic head of our state, as the emblematic head of our union, as the actual physical Commander in Chief and as the elected Chief Executive of our nation, my prayers will be with the man. I hope that over time he will gain much wisdom, that God will protect and prosper the man, lead him and guide him, humble, hone, and help him. That he will come to understand that government as a mechanism is as nothing compared either to the People, or to the Individual, that his job is to serve and not be served, that many will criticize him harshly and wrongly, and that many will criticize him truly and wisely, and that he come to perceive the difference and act accordingly. And all in all, do not bend where you are right man, and for God’s sake and for the sake of your own soul and the soul of this nation, change quickly when you should and when you must. God bless Barack Obama, and may you become in this world what many most need you to be, a great American, and not just an American dreaming of being great.
God bless America too while we’re at it. And Godspeed as well to you, President Bush. In many ways you were the most problematic and confusing and sometimes outright bizarre Republican president I ever helped to elect. Twice. But in many other ways you were one of the most fantastic and influential and noble presidents we have ever had, and you are definitely right about this matter as well. History will judge you far differently than the faddish and foppish intellectual herd of bedeviled mental bovines that currently roam the contemporary hinterland of media-nly infused self-absorbed impuissance.
So, to the past - let history make yesterday a doorway to the truth of the present, and to the future – let every good thing to come be opened wide to the People of Tomorrow. For that is as it should be.
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