Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Day in the Life of a Nation.

By the time you read this, there will be a new President of the United States. It seems almost absurdly surreal to type that sentence and read it as it appears on the monitor. Personally, this fact alone would be cause for much satisfaction. I've made it pretty clear over the life of this blog that I've been no fan of George W. Bush. Just like the man himself said about a week ago, there have been disappointments during his two terms in office. That's a particularly egregious understatement- actually Bush's "disappointments" have helped foment this nation's impending depression. There is no way to encapsulate all that has happened over the last eight years. I'm sure all readers can make a list if they are so inclined.

Despite the administration's string of missteps staggered along this first decade of the Twentieth century, I have managed to advance my own life. The individualist strain of the American character certainly suggests that this is possible regardless of anything happening on the national stage. We're not supposed to make excuses for the trajectory of our own existences. I have been lucky enough to be able to take responsibility for my own outcomes. Yet while it is true that everyone has a degree of opportunity to chart his/her own course, I think it would be a mistake to imagine that all US citizens have been blessed equally. A cursory look through our country's history should clearly indicate otherwise.

Obviously social inequities have not been limited to factors such as race, gender, and ethnicity. I am a white man born of Christian extraction. That puts me within a demographic that has been historically most likely to reach the upper echelons of the power structure of the United States. However that doesn't mean that everyone with similar circumstances has the same potential. Some of the nation's poorest are to be found among those of Scots-Irish extraction living in the Appalachian region. I've driven through areas that feature tar paper shacks and outhouses. To see things like that is to doubt one's place in time. It's a mistake to draw conslusions about others simply based upon externally visible characteristics.

Still I can't help but acknowledge what Barack Hussein Obama's inauguration will mean to largely disenfranchised segments of the population. Walk into any public school history class, and you are likely to see a series of portraits representing every person ever to hold the presidency. It's hard to miss the homogeneity in their collective appearance. There are no women, no Latinos, no Asians, no Native Americans... nor are there any blacks. As strange as it may seem to those of us adults who sat in classrooms adorned with such images, the basic picture is going to change. And if an African-American can be added to the ranks of this club, then it seems to expand the range of possibility for everyone.

For me, today is probably not going to be substantially different than any other ordinary Tuesday. I'll follow my customary routine, and mark the passing of another workday. Unlike more than a million of my fellow countrymen/women, I'm not going to journey to DC to see the swearing in of our new Commander-in-Chief. I'm not going to join the crowds that are swelling the Capitol to witness this historical event. But like legions of folks dotting the American landscape, I'm going to devote some time to reflect upon this moment in our story. We are living through a time of extraordinary upheaval and challenge. Without succumbing to melodrama, it's possible to say that President Obama will have an unprecedented chance to make a difference.

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Blogger Dagrims said...

Good post.

I'm hopeful and guardedly optimistic about Obama's ability to unite the nation.

As a somewhat-related aside, have you ever checked out Pastor Manning and ATLAH? If not, a YouTube search will provide you with hours of entertainment. You want to talk about surreal? This fits the definition perfectly.

7:22 PM  

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