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Some Thoughts on the Inauguration

Timothy Kincaid

January 20th, 2009

What follows is not a structured commentary but rather some random thoughts on the inauguration.

Rick Warren: Warren’s performance continued to highlight what an unfortunate choice it was to select him for the inaugural invocation. His inflection and style lacked gravitas and humility and at times he seemed false and fawning. I watched the ceremonies in a local coffee shop and the crowd laughed when he verbally caressed the names of the President’s daughters.

The Presidential Inauguration Committee should have closely observed his praying style before announcing Warren. Had they done so, they might have made another selection. Or perhaps they did and wanted what they got.

Vice-Presidential Oath: I wonder why the Veep has an oath that is so much longer than the President’s. It seems that this oath is not stipulated by the Constitution and so they use the same one used by Senators.

Swearing In: Did Roberts not make clear to the President that he would be offering whole sentences rather than small word coupling? And then Roberts screwed up where “faithfully” was placed in the oath.

I would never accuse the man of intentional sabotage, but it does remind us that when President Obama was a Senator he voted against confirmation of Chief Justice Roberts.

Presidential Address: This was a good speech. It began with the usual platitudes and was full of generic rhetoric, but it also gave indications where this administration will view the world with different eyes than the last. Specific references to restoring “science to its rightful place”, and “we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals” suggest direct policy changes while more general references hint at priorities that will change.

What saddened me was the continuation of excluding gay persons from any reference in the grand fabric of the nation. Of course some will dismiss this as an overreaching demand for such a small community, but Jews and Muslims – both much smaller populations in America – received specific reference. As much as I hope and wish for meaningful change for our community, I now fear that gay Americans are seen as a less insignificant part of Barack Obama’s America.

Benediction: Bless Rev. Lowery, but if anyone less prestigious had given that prayer they could not have carried it off. “The Red Man can get ahead, man”? Yikes!!

But I am particularly pleased that the reverend said:

And now, O Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance. And as we leave this mountaintop, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family.

Considering the press surrounding Warren and his selection, it seemed to me that Lowery was speaking directly of the rights of gay Americans and the recognition of their relationships.

CNN: I found it of questionable taste that throughout the President’s speech they kept finding and focusing on an elderly black person. They stayed too long and the audience members’ shock of recognition of themselves on screen was distracting from the speech. And after a while it ceased seeming a confirmation of the fulfillment of a promise and began to take on a feeling of pandering and condescension. I hope that in the future media outlets can recall that this is the President of all Americans, not just old black Americans, and that we all should join together to provide our support for his leadership.

Finally, this was a joyous occasion. We should, as a nation, together hope and support and celebrate this new chapter in the history of our country. Because be we Democrats or Republicans, young or old, gay or straight, black or white or brown or chartreuse, we are Americans and Barack Obama is our President.

Comments

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Benjamin
January 20th, 2009 | LINK

“The Red Man can get ahead man” is completely appropriate. No “yikes” needed here. I have 2 Arapaho cousins, I’m part Osage and Cherokee, I am friends with a direct descendant of Chief Crazy Horse and I know their style of discourse and what Rev. Lowery said was completely in line with their humor. I loved his prayer and heard it as a complete, authentically humble and beautiful contrast to Rick Warren’s pompous prayer.

Benjamin
January 20th, 2009 | LINK

BTW Rick Warren enjoys being heard and lauded with applause.

Ryan
January 20th, 2009 | LINK

Barack Obama included gays in both his DNC nomination speech and his acceptance speech on November 4th. I’m not sure why you feel slighted now, or “saddened”. Not only did he not mention gays, he didn’t mention straights, whites, blacks, or any races or orientations at all. He only mentioned religions (and those who don’t believe at all) because it was on topic.

I will agree that Warren was terrible.

Brenda
January 20th, 2009 | LINK

I too felt slighted. Although, he did say that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness. That may have been his way of adding us in. We’ll see.

Ryan
January 20th, 2009 | LINK

I don’t understand why you would feel slighted when the only groups Obama mentioned were religious ones. (And non-believers, which I thought was GREAT).

Warren Terra
January 20th, 2009 | LINK

Barack Obama included gays in both his DNC nomination speech and his acceptance speech on November 4th.

And Obama included gays in his speech at the concert on Sunday.

I mean, I understand your feeling slighted, but on the other hand Ryan’s point is relevant: the only population categories mentioned were religious ones, and Obama included atheists there (breaking new ground, I think, for a President, though Obama has occasionally done this before as a candidate)

Raj Saxena
January 20th, 2009 | LINK

I now fear that gay Americans are seen as a less insignificant part of Barack Obama’s America.

Don’t be so sure: http://www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/civil_rights/

Timothy Kincaid
January 20th, 2009 | LINK

Some perhaps missed the full text of the speech. The President addressed

Religious Differences: “Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers”,

Racial Differences:“men and women and children of every race and every faith”.

Ethnic Differences:“every language and culture”

I look forward to the day when divisions based on sexual orientation will receive the same attention on a national scale that do divisions based on religion, race, or ethnicity.

In the meanwhile, this is a day of celebration.

Ryan
January 20th, 2009 | LINK

Ah, man. The desire to be offended on this site is overwhelming. I guess I can’t hack it.

Jarrett
January 20th, 2009 | LINK

To me, the lack of specific reference to gay people is of a piece with Obama’s insistence on transcending blue state vs red state politics. The idea that we can feel included only if we are specifically named would seem to suggest that we are gay before we are Americans. This was always the downside of our well-intentioned litanies of inclusion, all the endless meetings we’ve spent composing phrases like “gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and transsexual” and then repeating these to death. Even to some gay people, these lists are uninspiring, because they imply that none of us has a reason to feel a part of our society unless we are called by name. If that’s the case, we should just demand that the president read the entire phone book at every speech. Then each of us would really feel included.

As an environmentalist, I could be equally offended by Obama’s reference to “roads and bridges,” but not public transit, in his passage on economic stimulus. But this morning I choose not to be. There will be time for that tomorrow.

Charles Lanigan
January 20th, 2009 | LINK

I guess the white house website has a new webmaster. The new site is pretty cool including a piece on the civil rights site notably “Support for the LGBT Community”!

Emily K
January 20th, 2009 | LINK

I 100% agree with Jarrett. We will TRULY be included when no mention is necessary.

Joe
January 20th, 2009 | LINK

I’m more impressed by the lofty promises on the new whitehouse.gov. I’ll believe civil unions when I see them, but the promise has been made.

louise
January 20th, 2009 | LINK

I think you’re overly sensitive on the gay thing. Obama mentioned gay people in every speech he made over the weekend. In this speech he didn’t single out anyone except in the one section that referred to religion. Slipping ‘gay’ in there wouldn’t really have been appropriate ;-)

He also didn’t mention disabled people, as he had on Saturday. I didn’t take this to mean he doesn’t care about them either.

Joe
January 20th, 2009 | LINK

People wondered if Warren would end his prayer “in Jesus name” or if he would for just one moment in time drop his arrogance and say a prayer that was inclusive. Well we got our answer when he not only prayed in Jesus name but he went out of his way to name Jesus in four languages.

What a complete dickhead this sorry excuse for a man is.

bigfathooters
January 20th, 2009 | LINK

I went out to have a smoke when Warren prayed. He makes me want to vomit, the scum moneymaker.

homer
January 20th, 2009 | LINK

I left the room for most of Warren’s speechifying but returned in time to hear him mangle the kids names. What a waste of oxygen. They should have had Aretha sing two songs instead.

CrankyOtter
January 21st, 2009 | LINK

The only way I could stomach the Warren invocation was through this lens someone offered: Having Warren invoke the beginning is like unto how Bush ran his administration. Then there’s the transition where Obama gets sworn in, and the much more inclusive Lowery leads us into the next administration. Sort of bookending the ceremony with contrasts of what was and what will be.

Plus, it gave that annoying creep enough of a platform that his church (so I heard) pulled down all of its anti-gay propaganda (at least for today), and thwarted him from speaking out against Obama to his masses. Still don’t like him.

Still don’t know if it was a good choice, but thinking in these contexts helps me make sense of it.

(And I parsed Lowery’s ending as very ’60s hippie/ this land is your land vibed. am I wrong?)

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