Watching the Second Inaugural meant watching history take a mighty turn. It wasn't just the investiture of one man as president. It was the marking of a new age for all humanity. In a very real sense, we all got inaugurated, all of his supporters here and around the globe. It was OUR day!
Obama recognized this in his speech. Even as he emphasized that we have work yet to do in order to achieve equality for all our citizens, he was reminding us of how far we have come and that his being president is a monument to that progress. He didn't have to expressly say this last; just his being there at the podium and talking about the struggle for equality was enough to make the point.
And the point is an enormous one: An African-American has been elected to a second term as president. His election - unlike the first one - can't be discounted by cynics as due to an economic crash or to Bush and the GOP having otherwise messed up so wildly. Obama got re-elected because of our progress toward equality over the past two centuries.
This ongoing achieving of equality is central to his vision of America and that of the Democratic party. He was virtually silent about this vision in his two campaigns and in his first term. You'd have thought he was just another white guy. But at the second inauguration he was free, free at last, to say it like it really is: America is about equality.
Given the demographics and outcome of this last election, the GOP had better get out of the way of this vision or perish. This vision should and will prevail. None of us for whom this election was a victory - women, minorities, gays, the poor, the elderly, the children - are going back. We are not going to be subservient to the ever-greedy machinations of the already super-rich. Nor are we ever going back to how things were when I was young: If you weren't a white male Protestant, you didn't count. You weren't there. You were nothing and nobody. You only mattered when it looked like you might get something because then one of those white males would tell you that you couldn't have it.
That's changed. It began to change even before demography swung in favor of right prevailing over might. As Obama pointed out, it began to change because of Selma, Seneca Falls and Stonewall.
But it took a dreadfully long time to change. We can't wait that long for the next chapters of equality, among them the restoration of some income equality. When the labor unions were virtually destroyed in the Reagan era, there was nothing left to protect the middle class, and the middle class has taken an awful beating since, flat-lined on income in the last decades while the incomes of the rich soared as much as 4000%!
I don't begrudge the rich what they have. I grew up as the poor cousin of wealthy folks and saw the sad problems lots of money can bring to families. But I also know that lack of money can also bring sad problems. We've got to do what Obama urges: through education, better infra-structure, and R&D, we have to create the jobs that can pay good wages and put our middle class back on its feet. We also have to reverse the destructive impact of rising health care costs on our personal finances and on those of the federal and state governments. And we have to fight back against global warming or nothing else matters.
Can we do these things? Of course, we can. We have been inaugurated now. Our time has come. We women, and the men of good will who stand with us - we can do this. We who are young or very old, of varied race, ethnicity, religion, or of varied sexual orientation - we can do this. We are empowered now. Our power flows from the bravery and sacrifice of Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall. A dear price has been paid right up through this last election. The dollars we sacrificed to the Obama campaign cost us dearly in necessities foregone. The hours of volunteer work were hard.
Now we have to get behind Obama's efforts to govern. We also have to GET RID OF THE GOP HOUSE MAJORITY. Until we do, we are hampered in going forward. But we are not stopped!
You can't stop history. And WE are carrying history forward now.
It is a joyous burden!