A reader took me to gentle task this morning for yesterday’s post on Obama’s inauguration, noting:
While I appreciate your blogs, this one proved far too cynical, particularly the opening paragraphs. "America" has a LONG way to go but...Look, an Afro-American man got elected president! Bush and his ilk are out! I'm just saying for one day, one day when almost everyone from Kauai to Mississippi unites, there is hope warranted, not cynicism.
That reader is not the only one who feels that way. During a phone consultation yesterday afternoon with my doctor, who now practices in California, he expressed surprise that I wasn’t jazzed by Obama’s inauguration. He’s a very progressive man, politically, medically and spiritually, and he’s looking at the Obama presidency as “a pivotal time in our country. Our country will lead the world into a new age.” In fact, several of his friends moved from the West Coast to D.C. to devote their talents and energy to Obama’s Administration.
And when I was shopping in Kojima’s, where the radio was tuned to KQNG, I heard a woman call in, tearfully asking Ron Wiley to replay the inaugural address because she couldn’t afford cable TV service anymore, and she'd been so moved by the President’s words that she wanted to hear them again.
Meanwhile, a friend got a TV specifically so she could watch the inauguration and another friend sent an email with the subject heading: “out of the Bushes!”and a message that read: “welcome to the new era.”
Then I glanced at The Advertiser this morning and saw an AP story that reported:
From the boisterous streets of New York to the suddenly silent casinos in Las Vegas and virtually everywhere in between, Americans celebrated Barack Obama's inauguration by answering his call for national unity: They gathered together.
"I knew I had to be with people for this moment, not just sitting at home by myself," said Amanda Hoff, 32, who skipped work to watch Tuesday's ceremonies with hundreds in a Philadelphia skyscraper. "It's the kind of moment where you'll always remember where you were when it happened."
Clearly, I’m out of step with millions, perhaps tens or even hundreds of millions, of people around the world, and it’s not the first time I’ve been in that situation, or that it’s given me reason to pause.
I’m not sure where my cynicism comes from, but I do know I recognized it back in sixth grade, when as punishment for some infraction the teacher required me to copy a page out of the dictionary. Cynicism was one of the words, and its definition — “Believing or showing the belief that people are motivated chiefly by base or selfish concerns; skeptical of the motives of others” — resonated with me.
Being a reporter and seeing people lie and posture and backstab and pander for nearly 30 years hasn’t helped matters, either. Yet I recognize the paradox in this way of thinking, because nearly every week I interview people who care deeply about this community and are dedicated to improving it and give selflessly of their time, money and manao. They invariably inspire me, humble me and motivate me.
In fact, meeting these folks often makes me wonder how it is that so many individuals can be so good, and yet our systems, which, after all, comprise individuals, are generally so bad, whether they’re political, religious or charitable.
So when I hear a president call for unity, I’m not convinced that’s necessarily a good thing, especially if the reason for the unification is to perpetuate the imbalance that America represents in the world, and when I listen to a speech, I can’t help but search, reporter-like, for the contradictions and the platitudes and the hyperbole.
Yet I’d be the first to say yes, I welcome a new era; yes, I want people to care; yes, I’d like to see people get off their asses and get involved; yes, I do believe that change is not only possible, but essential; and yes, I think people are tired of feeling disillusioned and cynical, me among them.
And if Obama is the catalyst for making that happen, if he can inspire people and motivate them and give them a reason to get out and make a difference, then more power to him. I wish him, and all those who still have hope, well.