I am a skeptic. I am a skeptic about pretty much everything -- a "Show Don't Tell" sort of guy.
So while the majority of the world seems all a titter over Obama, I don't. I don't hate him (yet). I just don't get all a titter. Don't get me wrong: I am not a Bush apologist. But just because I don't like Bush does not mean I do like Obama. It's not either-or, okay?
I guess the optimism of the country is good in a way. There is some amount of self-healing and placebo effect of a positive attitude. So in a way, I am glad that attitude is there. But I also think that attitude is dangerous. Well, maybe dangerous isn't the right word, but it's in the ballpark. There has been a sort of messiah complex built around the man, which I don't think is a good thing. Firstly, it allows him to do get a pass when he does bad things. He's the messiah, he must be right. Secondly, there is this little gnawing fear that if he disappoints, people will over react in the opposite direction. And, quite honestly, that may be worse than getting a mulligan on doing the wrong things.
I do totally get the celebration of the black community that they actually feel represented. (I have pretty much never felt represented, though I never had to sit at the back of a bus or eat my lunch out back.) And I guess they really should celebrate that. Though I think the real progress on that front occurs when race is not even so noticed. Both sides are guilty here: there are sub-camps that like him and dislike him because of his race. The real celebration occurs when there is no celebration. Ironic.
I didn't actually sit down and watch the inauguration. The TV was on. I was in and out of the room. I heard bits and pieces. But it is interesting that with partial deafness and full inattention I picked up on the same phrases that the media did:
"The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works – whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day – because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government."
Maybe I am being too picky here, but immediately 2 things really bothered me (beyond the point that he is a politician and I already doubt he really is looking for something that works.)
- First, I am bothered by the fact that the question is "does it work?" instead of "is it right?" While "it works" is seriously important in the evaluation of something, it cannot be the sole justification. We could probably act like Somali pirates and steal everything of value on the international waters to finance our failing economy. That might work. But it isn't right. In the same regard, we can steal money from an increasingly unemployed population via taxation. That might work. But I don't think it will. It may make the problem bigger and put the pain off for another day. And it isn't right.
- Secondly, history has shown us what works. And I doubt seriously that will be considered. In the history of the world, the more free the economy, the more successful it has been. The less intervention, the more the return. What works would require -- not doing nothing -- but UNdoing lots of things. The sad part of this is: it not only is the answer to "is it right?" but it is also the answer to "does it work?" And yes, there would be those god awful selfish people making tons of money. Odd that selfishness is so successful, huh? Odd that our culture teaches how evil it is even when it positively answers both "does it work?" and "is it right?".
The one thing Obama seems determined to do (and I am slightly optimistic about) is attempt to be inclusive. There is the possibility that this means he will just get everyone's hands dirty so blame goes all around, but there is also the (slight) possibility that he might actually listen to someone that holds an opposing viewpoint. He did say:
"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers."
This. This does give me a tiny sparkle of hope. I don't know that I have ever heard any public figure acknowledge that we were anything but a Judeo-Christian society. Often they even try to say we were founded on those beliefs (even though that statement is categorically incorrect). But the fact that there is a slight acknowledgment of non-christians and (gasp) even non-believers among us does at least inspire a tiny spark of optimism. Maybe, in my own skeptical tiny way, I suffer from a diminished form of the same messiah complex, but it sure beats "I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots."