On Monday, I could have sworn I heard a "Shoyuken" a la Street Fighter 2 during President Obama's swearing-in ceremony.
President Obama's second inaugural speech was an exercise is beautiful rhetoric, deft use of historical allusions, and promises of future policy-making while deftly avoiding specifics. Obama is a master orator; this second inaugural speech is a classic which will be studied decades in the future.
President Obama's second inauguration was also a masterful exercise in symbolic politics. There was something for everyone in post-civil rights multicultural America on that day. I teared up when I saw the Tuskegee Airmen--great men of iron and steel who loved a country that did not love them back; now they get to see a black Commander in Chief for the second time, in person, on the dais, and as his honored guests.
An openly gay bishop gave the opening prayer. Medgar Evers' widow gave the invocation. Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor, a Latina from the Bronx and proud affirmative action baby, gave Vice President Joe Biden his oath of office. Our gay brothers and sisters got shown some love in the inaugural parade too. And one of them, Richard Planco, even delivered the inaugural poem.
President Obama's inauguration was a beautiful show and spectacle that presented an updated version of our national mythos, one repackaged for post civil rights America, in which the country celebrates a peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next.
Ultimately, as the folk saying goes, the "sizzle was better than the steak" during Obama's inauguration. My belly is full, for the moment, on Obama's promise of what could perhaps come to pass in these next few months and years. Will he leave us hungry later on? We shall see.
President Obama's inaugural honeymoon with the American people will be ending very soon--and for many, it never began.
Conservatives and the Fox News crowd will be upset that President Obama dared to mention the "gays" and "feminists" during his second inaugural address. The Right is also disgusted that Obama located a concern for the Common Good as being solidly within the American Political Tradition. Moreover, Obama had the unmitigated gall to talk about railroads, schools, and improving the country's infrastructure.
He is also an evil Orwellian collectivist who had too many black and brown folks, those "takers" and the heirs to the welfare queens and beneficiaries of affirmative action on stage during the inauguration. What are the "real Americans" to do in the face of such strident assaults by the multiculturalists and diversity obsessed liberals?
Obama is also not sufficiently "bipartisan" and "confrontational" because he called out the Ayn Rand tendencies of the Tea Party GOP and their obstructionist zealotry--what are the base components of an ideology which views government as a baby to be drowned, quite literally, in the bathtub.
For the Left, Obama's inauguration will criticized as "more of the same" promises of hope and change that were made in 2009...and which they felt were immediately betrayed upon his formally entering The White House. Obama also did not call out the banksters and plutocrats in his inaugural speech; nor did he promise a retreat from the War on Terror with its campaign of assassination abroad, or to reign in domestic spying and the federal government's assault on privacy rights.
Some on the Black Left will find further fuel for their fires of disappointment, charging that Obama has "abandoned" the Black community because he mentioned immigrants (coded as Hispanic) in his inaugural speech, as well as the struggle of gays and lesbians for full rights and citizenship. The African American freedom struggle was signaled to by allusions to Selma, Dr. King, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the presence of Medgar Evars' wife--but apparently this is insufficient.
The Black Left has not yet accepted the central irony that comes with having a President who happens to be black: African-Americans were integral to the election of Barack Obama, but if politics is at its core an exercise in "who gets what, when, and how," then the black community must then be only satisfied with symbolic deeds. Obama's race blind approach to policy helps black folks only as an afterthought, a function of some type of positive collateral damage or splash effect.
In post racial America, explicit mentions of the particular needs, struggles, and concerns of black folks by President Obama are by definition verboten as they are reminders of the basic contradiction that is the colorline, and how the United States remains a racialized society.
Americans do not have a memory from past Tuesday; African-Americans are a deeply historic people, and along with our First Nations brothers and sisters, we are reminders of the lie that was a Constitution born with a "birth defect", Jim and Jane Crow, a check of citizenship and civic inclusion which remains stamped "insufficient funds," and a broken social contract between White Government and black Americans. Post racial America cannot accept such a painful truth and maintain its mirage-view of how race is actually lived in America.
Do we learn to accept this reality and play the game, or do black folks (rank and file, as well as some elites) keep using an outdated playbook from the Civil Rights era, one where black and brown justice claims are to be granted a priori standing in the public and political spheres?
Barack Obama has been described as a "bound man" because
of how he navigates the color line and America's racial politics. As an alternative, I have suggested that Obama fits said description more because of
his particular relationship to policy--and the ways that he is
a Rorschach test for friends and foes alike--than exclusively because of
sentiments and attitudes related to race and/or racial identity.
President Obama is a consummate centrist. Consequently, he is incapable of pleasing everyone. 48 hours later has the thrill and afterglow of the inauguration worn off for you? For those in the public, on either side of the partisan divide, who have magnified Obama's presidency to some type of American nightmare, is there anything that he can do to please them? Should the President even try to quiet their voices?