President Barack Obama


I think I already wrote something like this after he won the election, but here’s what really struck me about the inauguration the other day:

I think I’m with a lot of other people my age when I say that my first political memory is of President Clinton getting impeached. Not too long after that, there was Bush v. Gore, and then eight years of the worst White House in American history. Congress was unhinged, the media was complacent, and there was not a single day since I became politically aware that I’ve felt like our country was being run by anything except a pack of morally stunted troglodytes. If, as you often hear finger-wagging boomer columnists kvetch, my generation is cynical, it’s because bone deep cynicism is the only appropriate reaction to growing up under the reign of some of the most incompetent and unhinged lumps of flesh to ever wield power over this country.

So when Barack Obama officially became President of the United States at 5 PM London time, it was like being able to breathe for the first time in my life. Obama might not be perfect, but he’s an intelligent, fully formed human being, and I can’t help but feel like he wants to do right by us. I have a belief in his basic decency that should be a prerequisite for office, but has been sorely lacking ever since I can remember.

As Obama gave his inaugural address, the camera kept cutting to what looked like a profoundly unhappy George W. Bush. It struck me, watching him, how small he suddenly seemed, and how gloriously over his presidency felt. Had this small-minded thug ever really been the most powerful man on Earth? It seemed inconceivable. After all, as bad as things may get, we live in a world with certain rational laws, and things like that just don’t happen.

I’ve argued before that Richard Nixon triggered something like a slow decline in American democracy, and George W. Bush, John McCain and Sarah Palin represented the absolute low point of that decline. This country, which I’ve always loved even though it seemed like the ideals that made it worth loving were dying out, appeared to be getting closer and closer to a point where it was beyond saving, or not even worth saving. And when Barack Obama became president, for all of his faults, it was like we took a step away from the abyss. President Obama proved that there’s still strength in those ideals.

It feels pretty damn good to be an American today.

Photo by Flickr user BohPhoto used under a Creative Commons license.


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