Thursday, January 22, 2009

You see, the great secret, Eliza, is not a question of good manners or bad manners, or any particular sort of manners.

More stories like this please.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received a rousing welcome this morning when she arrived at Foggy Bottom for the first time, as cheering foreign service and civil service employee packed every inch of the C Street lobby, including the balcony overlooking the flags of foreign nations.

I can't be the only one that remembers those smarmy articles back in 2001 about how career service workers at the White House were overjoyed to have the classless Clintons replaced with that o-so-cultured George and Laura Bush.

When it comes to the East Wing I would find it hard to believe that tweener hijinks of Sasha and Malia will be anywhere near as offensive to your average janitor at the white house as having to clean up the vomited leavings of the drunken Bush daughters back from an all night bender but you never can tell.

Then there's this rumor that Michelle Obama has never pulled that classy move of committing vehicular homicide of a an ex-boyfriend. I hope the white house staff will find her worthy despite the fact she's never left tire tracks on an old beau.

Don't even get me started on that gentlemanly George "Backrub" Bush and his inability to understand the term "personal space."

I'll gladly take the relieved accolades of thousands of career Civil Servants who've essentially spent the last 8 years as POWs over the back room whining of a few butlers who were upset that president Clinton didn't require suit jackets be worn in the Oval Office.

Even if we give in to the dubious proposition that Bill and Hillary "trashed the white house" then we're still left with fact that George and Laura trashed the nation. The General Accounting Office can't even put a dollar figure on that last bit of damage, unlike Clinton's missing "W" keys.

The adults are back in charge, even if they don't wear their suit jackets at their desks.

The point is that you sort of have to take off those jackets should you actually want to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Either I'm dead right, or I'm crazy!

Just a quick note on cynicism.

In my world the only sane people are those that display a healthy dose of cynicism. Out of those people I reserve my deepest respect for those that are willing to channel their cynicism towards their own most deeply held beliefs.

At the same time I subscribe to the Aristotle's call for "moderation in all things." In practice I take this to mean that even things that are good for us, say diet or exercise, can ultimately be unhealthy if we allow them to consume our lives.

With this in mind the phrase "a healthy dose of cynicism" doesn't signify to me the reflexive nay-saying it's so commonly identified with in our culture. Instead, a healthy cynicism is self-reflexive, curious and not given to extremes. Most importantly "cynicism" and "hope' are not antithetical.

It's become fashionable among those on the political right to refer to those of who worked for and supported the election of president Obama as some sort of Kool-Aid drinking cult who are anxiously waiting for Obama the "Messiah" to deliver to us our unicorns and puppies. When confronted over such ideological pigeonholing these people inevitably try and hide behind "cynicism" in an attempt to claim they reached these conclusions about Obama supporters rationally, without prejudice.

Of course nothing could be further from the truth.

When I watched those crowds at the inauguration yesterday on television I didn't see a group of glassy-eyed cultists. I saw a group of my fellow citizens wanted to be part of history; to watch our own Berlin wall fall with their own eyes.

I also saw millions of people who recognized that our nation's foreign policy over the last eight years has been a disaster, that our economy has been in terrible hands and that we cannot continue to exist as a country unless we reinstitute the rule of law vis a vis our own constitution. I saw people who want leadership grounded in reason and compassion, but who understood at the same time that even great leaders are human and given to make mistakes.

I know very few Obama supporters that wouldn't agree that Barack Obama will do things over the next few years that will me and my fellow liberals off. It's inevitable. But we also recognize that he can't do things alone, that real change is going to have to come from the bottom.

The very embodiment of healthy cynicism.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thank You, Rosa.

If I'm sure of anything today it's that wherever Rosa is she's smiling. Thank you, Rosa for making today possible. Thank you for your courage to take those steps towards the front of that bus. Thank you for pushing America to be America.

"Let America be America Again" by Langston Hughes

Let America be America again. Let it be the dream it used to be. Let it be the pioneer on the plain Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed-- Let it be that great strong land of love Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath, But opportunity is real, and life is free, Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me, Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart, I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars. I am the red man driven from the land, I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek-- And finding only the same old stupid plan Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope, Tangled in that ancient endless chain Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land! Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need! Of work the men! Of take the pay! Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil. I am the worker sold to the machine. I am the Negro, servant to you all. I am the people, humble, hungry, mean-- Hungry yet today despite the dream. Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers! I am the man who never got ahead, The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream In the Old World while still a serf of kings, Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true, That even yet its mighty daring sings In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned That's made America the land it has become. O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas In search of what I meant to be my home-- For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore, And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea, And torn from Black Africa's strand I came To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me? Surely not me? The millions on relief today? The millions shot down when we strike? The millions who have nothing for our pay? For all the dreams we've dreamed And all the songs we've sung And all the hopes we've held And all the flags we've hung, The millions who have nothing for our pay-- Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again-- The land that never has been yet-- And yet must be--the land where every man is free. The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME-- Who made America, Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain, Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain, Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose-- The steel of freedom does not stain. From those who live like leeches on the people's lives, We must take back our land again, America!

O, yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath-- America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death, The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies, We, the people, must redeem The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers. The mountains and the endless plain-- All, all the stretch of these great green states-- And make America again!