Sunday, January 18, 2009

Inauguration day -- a historic day like any other

It's party time in D.C. for the Dems who have waited eight years for these inaugural balls, dinners and concerts. People are primping and prepping, acquiring last-minute formal wear, begging for tickets, hoping to network, witness history and have fun. After all they worked hard to get their man into the White House and it's time to kick back and whoop, dance until sunup, drink a little too much and kiss a dozen strangers. The moment is historic; the President elect is African American. It may not be morning in America, but the clouds seem to be parting a little.

I would love to be able to celebrate, but I am terrible at compartmentalizing and cognitive dissonance gives me a scorching headache. If I did have a ticket to the inauguration, I'd probably give it away, because I'd be unable to enjoy myself knowing that for a lot of people who are suffering, nothing will change after the three-day-long party in D.C. Nothing.

It isn't party time for the 2.6 million Americans who lost their jobs last year. And not for the 120,000 who lost their jobs in the first half of January. Nor is it party time for the increasing numbers of children living in poverty with parents destitute and homeless, unable to provide adequate nutrition, shelter and medicine for their young.

Obama may inspire people who have lost everything to continue hoping that things will improve. What else do they have at this juncture? He will certainly motivate young, idealistic people to give of themselves to better their communities. But can he ensure that sensible and ethical financial regulation will be implemented over the entire financial services sector immediately? Can he motivate Congress to conduct oversight of the FDA and EPA, two agencies whose work has been severely compromised and politicized in the last eight years? Can he raise morale in the Justice Department? Can he bring effective leadership to FEMA? Can he close Guantanamo and save face? Can he seek bipartisan collaboration and get pragmatic compromise? Can he herd cats?

Congratulations, President-elect Obama and good luck.