Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Reflection: Whose Inauguration Is It, Anyway?

I just now heard documentary film-maker, Ken Burns, speaking with Keith Olbermann about the perhaps over-the-top adulation being afforded President Obama on the occasion of his inauguration, say something that I consider to be as profound as it is true. Burns reflected that our heroes are always somewhat less than we come to imagine them to be. But, he said, (and I must paraphrase now) the difference between Abraham Lincoln as he actually was, and Abraham Lincoln as we have exalted him, is that which we want of, and for, ourselves.

In the case of our exaltation of President Obama, therefore, if we do that which we would do, rather than that which we would not, then our success will maintain Obama up there in that high place to which our enthusiasm has lifted him today.

As Obama has said: It's not about him; it's about us.


Anonymous said...

Human...all too human. Don't expect much.

Rodak said...

I expect nothing. But there is hope for some incremental progress to be made.
If we use MLK Jr., rather than Lincoln, in presenting this idea, we can see that we have, to a great extent, begun to live up to the "I have a dream" speech.

Anthony said...

"Trust not in princes" and all that.

In any event, Obama can not possibly live up to the hopes of every one of his supporters. And yes, maybe people are placing so much on him -- that is why I pray for him.

In the end, every president disappoints his earliest supporters. It goes with the territory. In Obama's case, his earliest supporters are the Think Progress and Kos types. They will be very disappointed.

To give you a personal example, the summer after I graduated college, in 1989, I was at a bar-b-que when some aging YAFer types showed up (or at least I thought they were old at the time, they probably were not much older than I am now).

They brought with them a copy of the "YAF songbook" Yes there really was such a thing. The songs went back to the 1960s and were mostly comedic riffs on politics of the day (I remember one semi jokingly extoling State Senator Marchi as the guy to knock off Lindsay in 1969). The songs from the 70s often mention Reagan as the new champion.

The final soing was from 1985 or so and it was extremly anti-Reagan, complaining that he threw out their principles.

It happens.

Rodak said...

The point of Burns' remarks (and my post) was exactly that the "hero" can never live up to the expectations; but that the expectations should serve as a prod to those doing the "expecting" to try to live up to those high ideals.
You won't get there; but you won't just be sitting around waiting for the "hero" to do it alone, either.