Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hope, the Inaugural Address and Being Counted

This is Thursday, and I am still thinking about Tuesday's inauguration and the inaugural address.

The world watched us on Tuesday.
Image from Google satelite

My first thought is that I am still feeling kind of amazed that this has actually happened and that we now have Barack Obama as our president. Truly historic. I am glad that my daughter and her classmates were able to watch the inauguration at school. Of course, a week before the election, the students at her school chose Obama for president by a landslide. It appears they were ready for change even more than the entire country of adults were, and are.

I liked the inaugural address, and I appreciated that the president did not gloss over the seriousness of the situation in our country, but appealed to the citizens to use their strengths to work to overcome the current difficulties.

I liked that he called upon science and was excited to hear him promise to use wind and solar energy, saying not just that we can, but that we WILL do it:
We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.

But I think the thing that surprised and encouraged me the most was this:
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

Watching the inauguration from work Edward immediately wrote on his Facebook page: Edward is happy to know that his president counts him as a citizen.

A couple of friends commented in agreement, but it is something that didn't make too big an impression if you are someone who has never ben marginalized by your government. A friend of ours wrote later that she had watched the whole speech, but had no idea what we were talking about. I responded: just have probably have never had your president state outright that he doesn't even consider you a citizen or another say that you are unAmerican because of what you do or do not believe, so Obama's inclusion today did not make the same impression on you. Somehow, if you believe in Jehovah but not Jesus or Jesus but not Vishnu or in Buddhism but not Jehovah or Allah but not Jesus you are considered a more moral and decent and, evidently, valid person in this country than if you frankly state that you just can't believe in any of these supernatural deities or religions. Polls have found that regardless of experience and ability, people in this country are less likely to vote for an admitted atheist or agnostic than ANY other group. So, that President Obama in his inaugural address referred to the patchwork that makes our country strong and included "non-believers" was amazing and very heartening, and really quite a breakthrough. I'd almost say unprecedented, except that this non-believer/atheist hate and distrust is a fairly modern phenomenon in our country, as the founding fathers and the majority of our first several presidents were not Christians or even theists, but deists.
When Obama started his list of the different religions that make up our country, I stopped and held my breath, but didn't really expect or hope for what he said. When he included non-believer with Christian and Jew and the rest, that meant a lot to many of us.

1 comment:

Leslie Avon Miller said...

Yes to religious tolerance. Well said.