Sunday, January 18, 2009

Start How You Mean to Go On

I was fortunate to catch the "opening ceremonies" of the Obama administration on HBO this morning. Very much the inclusive, celebratory occasion. Hope, it's still in the air. Compare and contrast to this stunningly prescient SNL skit from just before GWB's *first* State of the Union. Hunting accidents and dam failure anyone? Is it any wonder the news I've come to trust most is from comedy shows?

Back in the hope and change here and now is my assessment of this morning's festivities.

I felt a little sorry for the guy singing the national anthem. I've *never* heard a more confusing introduction for it. I was wondering what the hell they were playing until the verse started, at which point, it felt introductory to me too, and I waited as the singer did for when he was supposed to start. If the conductor had any compassion or sense, he would have started the first verse over after the guy didn't start on time. Clearly, they needed more practice, or a less obtuse introduction. He had a beautiful voice and clear diction and will probably never live this down, poor guy.

All in all though, for something put together about 2 months, while working on other stuff too, I thought it was very good.

A lot of the quotations presented by teh speakers are so common here as to maybe be taken for cliche. But they are not cliche so much as they are part of our national identity and, IMO, have been utterly absent for the last 8 years. The concept of "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" never crossed GWB's insular little mind. This ceremony was a reminder of who we are proud of being, where we come from, and what we can still be. It's all well and good to remind ourselves of this once in a while, but in this case, it felt so necessary as to rather scare me in the necessity. How close we've come to totally losing our sense of self.

I took note that MLK day is being upgraded to "a day of service" in Obama's plan. I like it. Holidays with something to do are always the most meaningful. (Trivia: In New England MLK is the biggest skiing weekend of the year.) Since it just occurred to me this moment that I missed our SWE day of service yesterday, I'll have to come up with something for February.

And can I just say that the last time I payed attention to Beyonce, she was a kid. I didn't recognize her today, but she really looked like a grown adult in her professional prime. It's nice to see people doing well. But how funny was it that they had "Kumar" known for being a stoner and Jack Black who was "Nacho" in "stretchy pants" saying grave and serious things? And how 75% of the songs were covers sung by people who have hits in their own right they didn't get to sing, with a couple of exceptions (U2, JM, BS).

One thing I became aware of from anthropology studies is just how important special days of celebration are for the psyche, both individual and collective. And this was an impressive one filled with ceremony, symbols (uh, trapped eagles flailing uselessly, maybe not so great), professional entertainers, and meaning. Celebrations do not dismiss the negatives of life, but like my occasional happiness lists, get us refocused on why it's worth fixing or dealing with the negatives. When it is all too common to wallow in the things that annoy us, celebrations allow us to reestablish positive focus and share a communion with our neighbors.

I enjoyed it. You?

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