"You've been sick, but you're better now, and there's work to be done."
-- Kilgore Trout, Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut
Vicki swears up and down that I actually said, after watching Barack Obama's 2004 speech to the DNC shortly after it was delivered, that he would be America's first black President. I have no clear memory of that, but I remember looking for video of it soon after it was delivered, because the bloggers who'd seen it were posting furiously about how awesome it was.
Watching it in retrospect, it's amazing to me how excited I was about John Kerry and how hopeful I was that he could win and Bushism could be repudiated as an error forced on an unwilling country. That, sadly, didn't come to pass. Bushism was confirmed by the election of 2004, and his crimes were in a sense sanctified by that decision. So Americans like this douche, who voted (by his own admission) for Bush out of ignorance twice and now think they can wipe their slate clean by voting for Obama, get no points from me. Tell it to the dead.
Yes, it's fair to say that I took the Bush years pretty personally. But then, those of us who were right about this monster from the beginning were told to sit down and shut up -- to get over it, in Scalia's words. Grossly unethical seizure of power? Get over it. Crippling new science to give the religious right a dog bone? Get over it. Using 9/11 as an excuse to bust unions? Get over it. Invading a country to kill hundreds of thousands of people for no reason whatsoever? Get over it. Smear your opponents as allies of mass murderers? Get over it. Using a brain-dead woman as a national spectacle to further whip up the fundies? Get over it. Allow a great city to be destroyed by storm, flood, and chaos? Get over it.
I don't mean to begrudge other people's joy in Obama's inauguration. American (and Canadian) blacks are astonished and jubilant over this milestone, and they have every reason to be. But for me, Barack Obama isn't just America's first black President. It's more important to me that he's the end of the Bush years, 8 years in which I've seen the world's most powerful regime act as rogue state, tearing a great hole in the world from beginning to end. My jubilation tomorrow (and I will be jubilant) will come from the fact that America seems to finally be led once more by a man who understands that we live in a world of complexity, and a world of multiple independent actors who need to be consulted and listened to, even if you're the United States of America.
The thing I will miss least of all about the Bush years is that valorization of the simplistic, the fetish of the "gut". It's a straight line from that to the up-is-downism of the American Right, where painting a school was supposed to be "the good news" that somehow outweighed the carnage in Iraq of 2003-2007. You don't need the complexity of actual reporting, facts, and research if you "know" that Iraq is going better than the media will report. That's right, a country at the heart of the Arab world was turned in to a charnel-house at the whim of a simpleton, but it's okay because (some) Iraqi (men) are better off (kinda) than they were under Saddam (after Gulf War I.)
The other thing I will not miss at all is my own anger. I have been, as the evidence of this blog will attest, pretty angry about the direction the US government has taken over the last 8 years. I don't like being angry, and while it sometimes makes for good copy I'd just as soon skip it. I am ready, even eager to be disappointed by President Obama. (Like I said, it makes good copy.) And while I'm certain he'll do things I disagree with, and not do things I'd like with as much urgency as I think necessary, nothing about the man's performance so far even hints at the kind of bald assertion of falsehoods that Bush, Cheney, and the rest of this criminal conspiracy are known for.
So I'll be watching the inauguration in full HD (thanks to my father for lending me his basment) and I will be smiling, and marvelling at it all. 40 years ago race was an issue that literally got great men killed. 20 years ago it was still enough to get men like Jesse Helms elected on the back of white fears. Hell, four years ago the Democratic Party was so diverse that it selected 2 white guys named John to run the country. But tomorrow, a half-Kenyan black man named Barack Hussein Obama will take the oath of office and become the 44th President of the United States.
So here's to you America. Welcome back. We missed you.