Monday, January 21, 2013

Thoughts on President Obama's second inauguration

Four years ago, I woke up at 3:30 in the morning to get on the Metro. Every station, every train was packed. My friends and I waited for hours huddled on the National Mall in January cold to watch a speck of a nominee in the distance become the first black president of the United States. It must’ve been the most people I’ve ever seen in one place in my life.

Every newspaper is publishing a story about how four years ago, Barack Obama was a concept, and today he is merely a man. An idealistic candidate eroded down to a graying mortal by four years of stunted Change. Everyone’s pointing out that while D.C. was completely packed for his first swearing-in ceremony, today no one had to wake up at 3:30 to get a spot on the Mall.

On Inauguration Day 2013, I’m nowhere near DC. I type these words on a plane flying from Kansas City to San Diego. I’m four years older and four years more bitter. Is it a dream deferred? Has my enthusiasm for the President waned since 2008, when I was a young student excited to vote in my first election?

He hasn’t closed Guantanamo Bay. He hasn’t ended our Cold War-level military spending. He hasn’t passed comprehensive-enough health care or worked enough on immigration reform. Gay couples in most states still can’t marry, and police still waste time busting pot smokers. Planned Parenthood is still under attack in many parts of the country, and the 600,000 Americans who call Washington, DC their hometown still don’t get any representation in Congress.

I should be the prime demographic for cynicism. I’m a recent college graduate working two jobs I could’ve done in high school to pay rent. As an angry straight white male, I’m exactly the sort of person Republicans (and punk bands?) bank on. But I still believe. Ironically, President Obama may have a better chance of achieving his idealistic goals after his subdued second inauguration than he did after his enthusiastic first.

We’re making slow-but-steady progress on marriage equality and marijuana decriminalization. In the wake of the Newtown shooting, the President is embracing gun control. This past week, Obama finally put DC’s “TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION” license plates on his presidential limousine, giving hope to over half a million Americans that they can finally have their voices heard. During his inaugural speech today, the President reaffirmed his activist stances on nearly every important issue, including the oft-overlooked crisis of climate change.

I have hope in America. After the reactionary surge of far-right politicians in 2010, I believe today most Americans have come around to the idea of working together for progress. The change we can believe in may be taking longer than anticipated, but Barack Obama still has my support just as much as he did four years ago.


  1. Young American, I truly appreciate your enthusiasm for the political process, your beliefs and values. However, unfortunately you are not being told the truth. Now, here comes the standard disclaimer I feel I must always state to avoid being dismissed as a right-wing ideologue. I am a registered Democrat and prefer to be called moderate, for I am socially liberal, but fiscally conservative. During his inauguration speech he listed the standard liberal bullet points; equal pay, gay rights, green energy, gun control, and immigration. But, if you look closer at these, they are nothing more than political fodder. Equal pay has been decided under the Ledbetter Act. Gay rights are being debated right now in the supreme court, which every expert says it will be kicked back to the states. Green energy, well the science is still out and putting it to practice has been proved costly. Gun control, no one is touching this, including Senate leader Harry Reid, this will die in Congress. And finally, everyone agrees the need for immigration reform, just not blanket amnesty. What was absent from his speech, was the growing debt that could destroy the dollar and thus, destroy this country. In 2008, the president called Bush's spending "unpatriotic" but yet, he has added seven trillion to the debt. As a congressman he voted against raising the debt-ceiling, now he demands the republicans to do so. However, the media is not informing the American public. Last Friday, the GAO reported that the current path of spending was "unsustainable" and reform was needed. Not one of the prime network reported the GAO's report. I am afraid that Americans are being led down a detructive path that may take generations to overcome, and nobody is telling the story.

  2. Dear Young American,
    The myth that many political observers believe -- and politicians perpetuate -- is that unless everything can be done, nothing can be done. But the reality is that reform is usually product of incrementalism (wonderfully illustrated in Bill Murray's classic, "What About Bob?"). You grasp this concept intuitively.

    The other phenomenon that we hope for, but seldom see, is the kind of transformative acts that are reminiscent of The Claw in Toy Story. The claw descends from heaven and carries the lucky little alien to a better place. Even though we know that the game is rigged, that the guy running the claw is an odious little jerk, and the better place might not be so better at all, we direct our efforts towards the hope of transcendence.

    Thank you, Young American, for keeping your aliens in the game and for continuing to hope despite the odds. Although a punk band (or a republican band) would be lucky to have you, cynicism is not the same as wisdom and you have just enough of the former and an abundant helping of the latter.

  3. Two different commenters calling me "Young American." Either they're both robots or I'm just a Young American.

  4. Thank you! I don't write political posts on here often, and when I do I'm afraid I'll offend half my readership. I'm glad you got something out of it.

  5. If you don't offend at least half your readers then you are not doing it right. Keep writing.