I stayed home from work today because of a winter storm that hit the area, and a nice benefit of that was that I was able to watch the inauguration of Barack Obama as president from the comfort of my living room, with my dog Mocha by my side. (Unfortunately, Jayne had to go on in to work.)
As I explained in the last blog entry, I think the Inauguration is the quintessential American event, representing the best about our democracy. As somebody said on CNN today, no other country does the transfer of power quite as well as we do.
For example, back in the fall when we were in London, there was talk in the media when the financial crisis hit that Gordon Brown might be on his way out as prime minister. (And please don’t ask me to explain the parliamentary system and how they call for elections — I still don’t know). We did learn, however, that if there had been an election and Brown had lost, he would have been out of No. 10 Downing Street the next day and his successor would’ve been in. No ceremony, no transition team.
Anyway, as I turned on the TV to get set to watch the proceedings, I also went to my Facebook page to check it briefly for messages, etc. What I found was fascinating — I ended up watching the inaugural with the Dell notebook in my lap, riveted by another kind of running commentary.
As a rule, I try to keep my personal politics off Facebook or any other public forum. It’s a learned behavior from my days as a reporter, where we weren’t allowed to display a political candidate’s bumper sticker, do volunteer work for a campaign, etc. Overall, I think it works out for the best.
But as I’ve described recently, I think I have a pretty wide variety of Facebook friends and many of them have no such reservations about airing their views. That became more and more apparent as the day’s events progressed, and what I saw was — well, I just said it — quintessentially American.
(Names have been omitted to respect the privacy of those involved.)
Many of my Facebook friends, like the throngs that crowded Washington, D.C., today, were thrilled at the installation of Obama as the nation’s chief executive. Some status updates:
“…just watched the inauguration and is proud to be an American..”
“…feels the pride and the promise.”
“…is moved to tears.”
and the ingenious: “..even if u r racist, it’s all right. My president is black and his house is white.”
Some couldn’t resist a last shot at the departing George W. Bush. From yesterday:
“…is celebrating the last day of the worst Presidency of my lifetime.”
Others noted the increased security around this year’s event and the fears expressed by some for the incoming president’s safety:
“…is very thankful for the amazing Secret Service.”
“…is letting out a sigh of relief.”
Others (including me) were inspired by the stem-winder of a benediction by the Rev. Joseph Lowery:
“…is Amen, Amen and Amen! Now that was a prayer.”
But some were a little more skeptical or ambivalent about the day’s events:
“…says yes we can, but will we?”
“…is hmmmm. Let’s pray this change is worth all the talk.”
“…misses the Bush administration already, but is proud to call a black man my President.”
And still others were clearly downright disgusted or distraught:
“..is glad the dog and pony show is over. Get back to work.”
“..is mourning the death of a once-great nation.”
Draw your own conclusions from all of this, but I’ll just add the same thing I’ve thought since November: the winners need to be humble and the losers need to get over it. I put a lot of trust in the ultimate good sense of the body politic, which pulls extremists on both the left and the right back into line when they get too far out there.
And four years from now we’ll all get to sit down at our computer screens again and speak our piece. That’s America.