Barack Obama: The 44th President of the USA
Barack’s Second Term begins amid pomp and Circumstance
Although I was surprised to see John Boehner with tear stained eyes as the Marine band played Hail to the Chief, after Barack Hussein Obama took the oath of office, reciting after Chief Justice Roberts, tears came easily to me. Those black folks who think this is not a moment for celebration has lost their souls….and the whites who share this view have lost their minds!
One need only look at the people on the podium – a gay poet, the wife of a slain civil rights worker, the Greek Orthodox Bishop, who said it was the greatest honor of his life to offer a prayer for the nation, et al. It was what contemporary America looks like; it was the coalition that elected the President.
Still looking like any brother you might encounter in a pickup basketball game in the hood, Barack is a role model to all the millions of young black males who are contemplating their futures in this society. And the message is that with a little help from family, friends and good teachers a little black boy in America today can grow up and become the most powerful man in the world!
It is that hope and possibility which was on display when the president took the podium to address the nation, and through the miracle of mass communication the entire world, as he shared his aspirations for the American people during his second term in the Oval Office.
Amid the spectacle of prancing horses and the triumphant sound of fluttering trumpets, President Obama greeted the massive sea of humanity; representing every physical phenotype and diverse religious and political belief. He began with his usual graciousness, and then he proceeded to deliver an oration that combined a deep sense of Christian charity that calls upon us to take care of our neighbors; to feed the hungry, feed the sick and care for the elderly as a matter of public policy not just pious preachment.
The President Speaks to the Nation
Giving the people a reason to hope for better days
The President reiterated the promise of the declaration of Independence that we are all “created equal,” and called for saving the environment; developing a humane and effective immigration policy; having the right to love and marry whom we please and federal law will protect our rights; investing in the education of our youths; while imploring the Republicans to join him in a bi-partisan effort to solve the nation’s problems.
His style ranged from barbershop conversation and fireside chat, to policy wonk and inspired preacher. And the society envisioned in his rhetoric promises a brighter future for all who seek one. However the prospects for the success of his policy objectives passing both houses of Congress, given the crazed behavior of the right-wing zealots, do not seem hopeful. Despite the cheering crowds gathered several bodies deep in an effort to get a glimpse of the President and First Lady, there are millions of white Americans – and a few blacks – who dread this day.
Hence when they got out of the Limo and began to stroll down the boulevard to the reviewing stand I’m sure the Secret Service agents got heart burn – given the animosity toward the of gun crazed paranoid racists, who possess every type of weapon, and may be poised to wreak havoc. I know I was on needles and pins watching them walk amidst the wildly cheering masses.
Elegantly promenading down this historic avenue, the First Lady’s style was an eclectic fashion statement combining finely tailored designer garments with off the shelf J. Crew. It is a statement that says American designers are tops and you can be sharp in clothing that the average woman can afford. Yet the more I heard about the fortifications of the presidential limousine – they talkin James Bond stuff yo – the more I wanted them to get back inside the ride.
For those of us who grew up under the racial caste system – American apartheid – it is a remarkable sight to witness this outpouring of love for our black First Family; it is certainly a sight that the wisest observers of the American racial scene just ten years ago would have dismissed as a dangerous delusion!
Hence I enjoyed every minute of the pomp and circumstance, feeling good about having played my part as a responsible informed citizen in helping to bring this day about. Unlike Corny West, I don’t feel at all slighted by not having been invited to the inauguration parties.
It is more than enough for me that Barack will be in the Oval Office, while Michelle runs the White House, looks after the girls, lends a mighty hand to military families and teaches the nation how to eat for good health. I cannot imagine better role models for the youth of America and the world. I feel like our nation hit the jackpot. All the pomp and circumstance is but the open and passionate display of the love that millions of Americans feel for our first family. This writer included.
You can it in the performances of the marching bands as the pass the reviewing stand. Music enlivens any occasion; it is what lodges the texture of an experience in our memories. As the great novelist and musician Ralph Ellison observed in Things Remembered Times Past –his classic essay on the creation of Be-bop at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem: “Music gives resonance to memory.”
Hence when I hear those big brass bands with thunderous percussion sections of snares, tenor drums, cymbals and a bass drum line, I conjure up memories of the euphoria I felt playing the Mellophone in a brass section performing the thunderous brass parts in Stars and Stripes Forever; or playing snare drums while the bass drums and cymbals crashed around me like thunder and lightning. It is such an ecstatic sensation it may be impossible to describe in words…and words are my game.
When played with a high degree of musicianship, this ecstatic feeling is transferred to the listeners. As they demonstrated again today, nobody plays these John Phillip Sousa marches better than the United States Marine Corp Band, which was founded by Maestro Sousa and for whom he wrote all of those great marching songs.
I learned to love these marches as a boy when I lived next door to a family of gifted musicians where the father, grandfather and three brothers played brass instruments, and were crazy about John Phillip Sousa’s compositions. Yes they are jingoistic anthems designed to create a martial spirit. They are also great compositions and if you like brass and drums you gotta love Semper Fidelis, El Capitan, Anchors Away and The Stars and Stripes Forever!
I still get goose pimples when I hear these marches and I love a good parade! Generations of men in my family fought under that Stars and Stripes all over the globe. And even when the nation was false to itself and profaned their most cherished ideals, sacrificing them on the altar of racism, these black men fought for what it promised; certain that there was no better deal to be had anywhere else.
Those who survive those conflicts are all happy campers today. When they witness Barack Obama sworn in as Commander-In- Chief, they feel their sacrifice has been justified. The prideful presence of the surviving Tuskegee Airmen, donned in their battle caps says it all.
So Let the naysayers on the extreme right and left try and piss on this magnificent parade if the dare. As the nation swoons to the sultry beauty of Byonce’s rendition of the National Anthem ll they will accomplish is to further seal their fate as irrelevant bystanders in the theater of political combat in America. Serves them right!
Anyone who is such a clueless cold fish that they fail to be moved by this amazing national spectacle, this visual panegyric to our democratic process, whose flaws lie more in the character failings of the electorate more than the system’s design, deserves to be confined to the sidelines warming the bench when the real game is being played.
Only master players who love the game of politics can hope to compete in a game where relationships of power are being created and shaped. One of the president’s strongest rhetorical devices was to consistently invoke the image of “we the people.” And he pointed out that in our system of government ultimate power resides in them.
A majority of the people believes him and identify with him. They love him for it and will follow him wherever he leads. Let’s hope he can work his magic to defeat the House Republicans in the Congressional elections two years hence.
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
January 21, 2013