Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Our spirit is stronger

I can envision GW Bush waking up Wednesday morning, opening up a nice thick newspaper and, as he sipped his coffee, pointing to almost every news item and saying gleefully: "Not my problem."

Perhaps my favourite line from President Obama's inaugural speech was the hawkish statement directed at terrorism: "Our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."

I think that if you take out that last bit, "we will defeat you," it is a statement one can imagine being representative of the American philosophy in the face of the ebb and flow of political trend. Sometimes quietly, sometimes loudly, America the shit they write songs about outlasts us all. It persists through and beyond all 44 presidents.

As such, I'm uncomfortable dancing on the grave of Bush's presidency. Dude made (or allowed) some seriously shit decisions, but he is not a villain. In the list of the most awful people ever he ranks quite low. One of the things that originally won him election was a promise to respect the office of the presidency and I think that he has done admirably. He used the office ineptly but respected the position -- its meaning and significance. Obama has acknowledged that; Bush was eager to ensure an easy and solid transition of power. Bush's interpretation of the American philosophy may be terribly off from the rest of us, but I don't think you can really doubt his love and respect for it.

As for the inauguration, I'll admit to getting a bit teary-eyed in watching.

A side note to Huw Edwards, however: You're Welsh and all, and I think you're swell, but you need to learn to shut up during historic moments. Some things don't need constant commentary.

The BBC's incessant need to jump into every single pause with whatever rent-a-pundit they had standing by got pretty annoying pretty quick and shoved me over to watching Sky News for a while. Then Sky News' incessant need to have three fucking bugs (a) and a crawl (b) pushed me back. I fucking know it's live. I fucking know it's Sky News because I fucking clicked to it. And I fucking know that you have a fucking website. Get your shit all out my business, you Yank-copying fucktards.

I liked the presence of Aretha Franklin at the inauguration. There was something beautifully, quintessentially American about it. You had the full power and might and pomp and ceremony of the Federal Republic of the United States of America on display, and then up saddles Aretha in front of it all to knock out a progressively incoherent version of "My Country 'Tis of Thee." A soulful figurehead to the new ship of state.

That is what we are, bitches. We will conquer you and then we will funkify yo' soul.

In the same spirit of doing silly things in momentous occasions, there's a part of me that takes pleasure in the fact that Chief Justice John Roberts (a Bush nominee, by the way) allowed the presence of some 2 million people to throw him off his game and mangled the words to the oath of office. It was kind of an acknowledgment of the fact that in this life we're really just making it up as we go along. That's a principle upon which the United States was founded -- when the colonies rebelled against Britain they really didn't have any idea or plan for what would come of it.

Making it up as we go along is what Americans do well. When we sing the praises of ourselves, we reference innovation, pioneering, etc. We are a wall-kicking people. We blow shit up good -- whether that shit be actual physical things like buildings, or technological challenges.

Our strength is often our weakness; who can sing the praises of American infrastructure? We get bored and lazy when we're not knocking things down. As Obama said: "Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age."

Thankfully -- albeit by our own actions -- we now find ourselves in a place where some serious wall-kicking is called for. We've got so much shit to fix, to build anew, to create. It will keep us busy for a while. I am hopeful that we will go to it as aggressively as we need to.

Three years ago I wanted to kiss the ground upon arriving at Gatwick, thankful of having finally "escaped." Now, suddenly, I am more willing to accept my nationality. I am no longer softening my speech and mumbling in shops to hide my accent. It is ridiculous when you think about it. But I suppose it's alright sometimes to act ridiculously.

(a) TV speak for a logo or graphic.

(b) TV speak for the running text at the bottom of a screen.


lfc said...

awesome post today. that's it.

Anonymous said...

I understand what you mean about respect of the office, etc. But 43's ineptitude brought disrespect to the White House. The landslide that occurred in November was a direct result of Americans yearning for someone they could once again have respect for in the White House. BTW, Obama made some very obvious remarks in his speech about how things (policy-wise) were going to change from the ways under 43...back to where they should be, under his leadership. It has sucked here for 8 years Chris. You had good reason to kiss the ground at Gatwick.

Anonymous said...

Gatwick is filthy, I hope you didn't kiss anything at all.