Every nation sets aside time for periodic bouts of collective narcissism and bumptious, obstreperous chest-thumping. In America, this is known as a “weekday”.
This weekday is special, though. This is Inauguration Day, which rivals July 4th as the day most likely to inspire American pundits to lubricate their innate chauvinism with gooey dollops of a cartoonishly whitewashed national mythology and rub themselves to self-adoring bliss. Ah indeed. ‘Tis Inauguration Eve.
We’ve seen a young, charismatic Democrat rise from humble beginnings to run a presidential campaign on a reformist ticket against a tired, dispirited and discredited Republican machine. But enough about Bill Clinton. This is Barack’s day—a day that has been described as “unprecedented” and “historic” but is, in fact, about as “unprecedented” and “historic” as my last trip to the dentist. I call it the “Redundancy of Hope”.
Really, we’ve been here before, have we not? So, a virile Democrat “outsider” roars onto the scene promising to “reform” the system, restore America’s prestige, and re-ignite the flame of “hope” in the hearts of Americans. Golly. Sounds ever so slightly like this guy, this guy, this guy, this guy, this guy and this guy. That’s a lot of reform, a lot of prestige, a lot of hope, and--in each case but one--a lot of ludicrously over-hyped and quickly disappointed nonsense.
I suppose, given the child-like need of Americans (and quite a few Canadians, it seems) to see this event as something epochal, it really is churlish and ungracious to point out the absurdity of the hysteria, but I’m going to do it anyway, all the while knowing full well that nothing I say will stay the hands of the homies high-fivin’ in the ‘hood nor dampen the ardour of middle-aged spinsters and soccer moms swooning with jungle fever at the blush-making thought of their Commander in Chief’s cute ears, chiselled abs, luscious lips, and long, um…fingers.
We haven’t had to wait for Obama’s Inauguration speech to cringe at the American need to Stalinise their history. The man of the hour started the myth-making early, during his last radio address, when he described the pending ceremony thusly: "For the forty-third time,” he said, “we will execute the peaceful transfer of power from one President to the next".
Indeed. The presidential chain of succession has never been marred by violence. Abraham Lincoln “peacefully” relieved Jefferson Davis of his duties as President of the Confederate States by annihilating his army and methodically extinguishing huge chunks of Southern culture. Lincoln then “peacefully” handed over the office to Andrew Johnson after being made indisposed by a bullet to the head. William McKinley, James Garfield, and JFK also “peacefully” sashayed into retirement by way of rude meetings with hot lead moving at rather inconvenient velocities.
Really, do Americans read books? Do American presidents read books? They certainly insist on writing the damn things, badly.
The “historical” feature of Obama’s presidency is ostensibly predicated on the fact that he is black. Sadly, Obama isn’t black. Granted, he is the first American president who would have found himself on the wrong side of the Nuremberg racial laws, but one rarely sees the press put the case quite that way. I guess “First black president” sounds better and makes Americans prouder than would something like “First president who would have been barred from civil service employment in the Third Reich”.
To be continued…