Sunday, January 18, 2009

Another National Holiday

My son had school on Martin Luther King Day.

He also has school on the day the first black president is inaugurated.

He was hoping that because of these two non-observances, his school could be deemed racist, and forced to close. No such luck, however, and my husband dropped him off at 8 am, as usual, on his way to the office. And he'll have to get those math assignments in.

But it's pretty much a holiday throughout the nation, it seems, not just for Martin Luther King, but for the inauguration of Barack Obama. I don't recall anything like the reportage with which we're barraged when Bush, or even Clinton was inaugurated. Perhaps it's the fact that we've got so much more media penetrating our consciousness, what with the thousands of internet sources at our fingertips, and the prevalence of talk radio and news. Even as newspapers are folding, no pun intended, news itself is proliferating, as everyone is now online every day, checking out Facebook or at least their several email accounts and the many blogs they get by RSS feeds. That's the point--everyone's world is fed to us: Ring! (no--nobody's phone ever goes "ring" anymore!) I mean, (hum first line of your fave song)--it's a Twitter update or a text or another urgent appraisal of somebody's observation, status, desire or misdeed. It's odd how we used to get by on so little information.

Like, well, even four years ago. But I don't begrudge this national euphoria, this excitement. What I do belittle is that much of the hoopla seems to be based simply on our new president's skin color. His mother was Caucasian and his father not an American, and yet he's now the representative of what black people (ie those who in the past were cruelly subjugated as slaves) can achieve. A black man in the White House! That's all that counts, not that he has no connection whatsoever to slavery (well, his mother's family appears to have owned some) and has lived a privileged life, never subject to racism in his childhood in Indonesia and Hawaii, and attending the finest colleges (Harvard counts).

I wish him well. I wish our nation well, and I have hope not for some radical reversal of our nation's direction, because that cannot occur without changing the underlying basis of our nation, its constitution, which I believe is an enduring and relevant document today. I have hope because so far, I have seen Mr. Obama act responsibly, taking the advice of those with experience and expertise, like John McCain and a range of others (as described in this New York Times article).

I disagree with proposed solutions to the economic malaise--government is not the great rescuer; American ingenuity and industriousness are. Here are the sentiments I'd like to hear spoken at the inauguration tomorrow:

“In the days ahead I will propose removing the roadblocks that have slowed our economy and reduced productivity. Steps will be taken aimed at restoring the balance between the various levels of government... It is time to reawaken this industrial giant, to get government back within its means, and to lighten our punitive tax burden...”

But it's unlikely we'll hear them...Ronald Reagan spoke them at his own inauguration in 1981.

What we will hear, I'm sure, is more about hope, more about change. More about what government will do instead what business could do, if it weren't hampered by taxes and regulations and well-meaning but intruding requirements that deter risk and growth.

But I'm optimistic. I'd love to be there at the parade, not cheering on our first black President; not cheering on the accomplishment of Barack Obama, or even the fresh start that a new administration offers. I'm cheering for a country that responds to the will of its citizens, and has the spirit to re-energize itself and put a positive spin on a tough time. We see hope, we embrace change, and there's the rest of the political system to impose reality and constraint. Now, however, is a time to be patriotic and glad.


  1. I would bet that the hoopla wouldn't be nearly so great if it were a black Republican being inaugurated today. Well, I know it wouldn't be. The news media is having its collected orgasm today where it can gush over not only a very liberal president but a black one as well.

    I "celebrated" MLK day by going to the Pacific Science Center and seeing the Lucy exhibit -- wonderful, go if you haven't -- and attempting an aborted home improvement project. Definitely go to see Lucy and while you're there go into the Tropical Butterfly exhibit. It's like stepping into summer in the midst of winter here.

  2. What is really sad to me is that all of this hoopla is only perpetuating racism. If we were really in a post-racial America, with a post-racial candidate, the fact that Obama is half black wouldn't matter at all and wouldn't draw this kind of media rapture. When we get to a day where we elect someone based solely on their credentials & character, and not say anything about the color of their skin, that is the day where racism truly ends.

    And this is coming from a half white, half filipino, who also happent to be a big fan of your husband's radio show!

  3. Interestingly, Tiger Woods got the same thing. He's just as much Asian as black, but he's rarely, if ever, referred to as the former.

    I admit I get a kick out of it by referring to him as "The first Asian to win the such-and-such".

  4. Thanks, Antony and're right, it's the fact Obama's is black AND liberal that brings the rapture. And you're right that Asian success doesn't bring the thrill, mainly because Asians, despite differing skin color and even (for west coast Japanese) relatively recent government internment, have so often worked their way into leadership, the middle class and beyond.