I wasn’t going to post about Obama’s inauguration today but it’s a bit hard to ignore. I’ve watched a couple of inaugurations over the years but none of them quite like today’s.
I remember watching Bill Clinton being sworn, on an old 1960s black & white telly that was all I could afford at the time. The Rainbow Coalition had just been voted in here, a combination of Fine Gael, Labour and Democratic Left elected after Labour walked away from previous partners in government, Fianna Fail after a string of scandals, most notably the mishandling of prosecutions against paedophile priests.
Back then I was skint and on the dole but it all seemed so optimistic, finally walking away from conservatism, cronyism and corruption into a bright new future. I remember watching Clinton’s inauguration from the big old iron bed I’d bought in a junk shop and, with the help of my boyfriend at the time sanded down and painted with Hammerite.
It was a particularly cold January that year and bed was usually the warmest place to sit to watch anything longer than half an hour. It was a lovely flat, a big basement one bedroom with sole access to a rambling over grown garden but I remember it being very cold!
Fast forward eight years and it was all change; Democratic Left merged with Labour and Fine Gael seemed to have lost the knack of getting elected. Over the course of Clinton’s two terms I had completed two college courses in journalism, split with both the boyfriend and the iron bed (I regret the loss of the bed) and met and married the Husband.
I remember arriving into work to write Internet news updates in the weeks after George W Bush had been elected to yet another story about hanging chads. The whole election process in the States seemed murky and sordid. Mind you things here had changed considerably as well. The Celtic Tiger had been spawned and the centre right dream team of Fianna Fail and the PDs were slaves to Mammon.
Financially I could afford to put the fire on by the time Dubya came to power but the policies on either side of the Atlantic didn’t sit easily with me. These were the days of the Teflon Taoiseach (Bertie Ahern) whose grinning face we seemed doomed to put up with for many years to come. In a post 9/11 world the bogeyman seemed to lurk under every bed and dark shadows lurked behind all the glitz.
But today it’s all change again. After 8 years of wars and suspicion in the US and scandal and corruption in Ireland something really had to give. Bertie jumped just before anyone could push and before the failing economy totally scuppered what little reputation he had left and Barack Hussein Obama has been sworn in today as the first black president of the United States.
Life is a little more scary these days with more responsibilities and less money. After eight years I’m back at the freelancing, even if there have been a few steps up the ladder. I don’t work in commercial radio anymore for a start!
Watching the ceremony it was hard not to be moved by the sense of optimism and hope that was being welcomed in. Back when Clinton got the job I was in my twenties and optimism came so easily. These days I’m a lot more cynical. It’ll take more than a single day to right the harm done over the past eight years.
But today’s not the day for talking about that. I’ll join with the general consensus today in wishing President Obama well and hoping he can live up to the task he has before him…listening to his inauguration speech it sounds like he’s going to have a pretty good stab at it.
Here in Ireland we’ve a way to go yet but today it feels like a return to more caring, socially responsible way of life may, just may be possible. I’m not belittling the economic mess we find ourselves in but we couldn’t go on the way we were. Ireland was in danger of losing any soul or sense of self it had for a crazy chase after crass commercialism and greed.
Today I’m just very glad to have witnessed a piece of history and remembered the past. Quite frankly I’d much rather live in a world where America is a benevolent patrician force rather than a hulking bully wielding a big stick. Now we seem to have got that one sorted maybe we can get Ireland to cop on as well.
By the way, if you missed the inauguration you can find the text of Obama’s speech here. I’m off to make dinner now safe in the knowledge that tonight the world seems like a nicer, warmer place for once. Long may it continue.