Make a Difference

Day: January 22, 2009

Inauguration Speech

Again, comments from friends that “I must have been moved by Obama’s speech.” Well, no. Not really. 

Apart from generic expressions of hope for the future, with about as much depth of thought as a placard I saw someone carrying that said “Our Future Starts Now,” there was nothing in the speech to suggest a well thought out programme for making the world, or even the US a better place. It was like listening to a series of readings from Helen Steiner Rice greeting cards.

But the crowd and media reaction! Pretty much like the response of the congregation in the last verse of this delightful poem by SJ Forrest:

He preached about the Trinity and how the world began;
Explained the Incarnation and the Destiny of Man.
He carefully expounded every detail of the Creeds,
And tried to show their relevance to modern human needs;
He brilliantly upheld the Christian heritage of Truth,
And sought to make it lucid and acceptable to youth.
They listened with correctitude, but everybody said,
‘He’s far too theological, and quite above our head.’

He gave an exposition of the Church’s means of Grace,
Revealing how the Sacraments revive a fallen race;
Of self-examination and the ways of Mental Prayer,
And why we need Communion, and how, and when, and where.
He spoke of Bible-reading, and to make it all complete,
Gave practical instruction on the value of Retreat.
And everyone agreed that it was logical enough,
But only suitable for those who like that kind of stuff.

He chose the Ten Commandments as the basis of a Course,
He amplified their meaning and emphasized their force;
He took the eight Beatitudes and Sermon on the Mount,
And spoke of Christian stewardship and rendering account.
He did his best to penetrate beneath their toughened skins
With pointed expositions of the Seven Deadly Sins.
They felt a little slighted to be led across this ground,
For morals in suburbia are basically sound.

One day, in disillusionment, believing no one cared,
He flung at them a homily completely unprepared,
Endeavouring his customary quarter-hour to fill,
With sentimental platitudes that meant precisely nil;
Returning to the vestry in the grip of horrid fears
That people would consider it insulting to their ears.
But no, they were enraptured and devoured every word:
‘Oh, Vicar, it was lovely! Quite the best we’ve ever heard !’

Obama Again

I’ve copped a bit of flack the last few days over my repeatedly expressed concerns about Obama’s abilities.

It’s not that I am sure he is incapable, it’s just that there is nothing in his life so far which suggests he is. He has a beautiful voice, he is handsome, he reads well from a teleprompter. But that’s it.

 “But he is a good man, and that’s what we need,” one friend said to me. Well, yes, we do need good men. That ought to be a necessary qualification. It ought not to be the only qualification.

But I’m not even sure it applies to Obama.

He appears to have had some very ill-chosen friends over a long period of time, friends like Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright, who have actively opposed what most people would think of as the “national ideals” (a phrase from his inauguration speech). You cannot be judged for your family, but you can be judged for your choice of friends. He appears to have done little or nothing to assist the poorer black members of his extended family. He repudiated his grandmother and her care for him in what was surely cynical political point scoring. He tolerated, if not actually approving (that’s harder to prove) the most appalling libels about Sarah Palin and her family during the election campaign. And his inauguration was speech was possibly the most ungracious ever made – certainly since Franklin Roosevelt similarly called for a restoration of American values. making it clear he believed these had been abandoned during the time of his predecessor Hoover.

In fact, for all his bumbling with the media, George Bush seems to me to embody far more of the qualities which have genuinely made the US great – genuine integrity and courage, generosity, and a willingness to do what he believes is right, even when those around him find the going too tough. I, at least, am grateful for Bush’s presidency, and what has been achieved in it.

I hope Obama will do well. I would like him succeed. But I am not hopeful.

© 2023 Qohel