toward-justice> Obama Charts an Arc of History That Bends Toward Justice
The Nation Blog: January 21, 2013 - 3:40 PM ET
Barack Obama, the president who publicly swore his second oath of office on
g-jr-lincolns-bibles-for-inaugural-ceremony/> Bibles of Abraham Lincoln and
the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., used his inaugural
l> address to chart an arc of history from the liberation movements of the
sixteenth presidents time through the civil rights movements of a century
later to the day on which hundreds of thousands of Americans packed the
National Mall to cheer for the promise of an emboldened presidency.
Obama charterd that arc in a remarkable soliloquy that spoke of a
fundamental America duty to provide hope to the poor, the sick, the
marginalized, the victims of prejudice:
Not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant
advance of those principles that our common creed describes; tolerance and
opportunity, human dignity and justice. We the people declare today that the
most evident of truth that all of us are created equalis the star that
guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and
Selma and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and
unsung, who left footprints along this great mall, to hear a preacher say
that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual
freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.
The recalling of the honored ground where Americans refused anymore to
accept the diminishment of women, of people of color, of lesbians and gays
were meaningful. They recognized Dr.
s_long_but_it_bends_towards_justice> Kings recollection at the close of the
Selma to Montgomery march that abolitionist Theodore Parker had promised:
Even though the arc of the moral universe is long, it bends toward
With his mentioning of
ral-address/story?id=18275341> the Stonewall protests, where the gay rights
movement took form, Obama went further than any president in the countrys
history to complete a circle of inclusion. But Obama, often and
appropriately criticized for his caution, did not end on that high note. He
went further still.
The president linked the historical reference, the rhetorical flourish, with
contemporary struggles over specific issues.
It is now our generations task to carry on what those pioneers began, for
our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can
earn a living equal to their efforts.
Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated
like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then
surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well.
Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to
exercise the right to vote.
Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the
striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity,
until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce
rather than expelled from our country.
Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of
Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that
they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.
That is our generations task, to make these works, these rights, these
values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every
Amid the poetry, there was a muscular agenda: pay equity, voting rights,
immigration reform, gun control. In other sections of the speech, there were
specific reference to addressing climate changean issue too long neglected
by leaders of both partiesand to renewing a frayed commitment to education.
And in others, still, not just to ending wars but to a renewed faith that
enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. This is a
long way from swords into ploughshares. But it was also a long way from
the Bush doctine." Perhaps long enough to be an Obama doctrine defined by
"the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations
peacefullynot because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because
engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.
And there was more, much more. There was the vital recognition that poverty
is form of oppressionnot a moral failing. We are true to our creed when a
little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same
chance to succeed as anybody else because she is an American, she is free,
and she is equal not just in the eyes of God but also in our own, said
Obama. A beautiful statement, yes. Significantly, in a time of debate about
the future of governing commitment to those whose dreams have been so long
deferred, Obama completed the arc from FDR and LBJ to today, not just
mentioning but defending Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of
security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of
health care and the size of our deficit.
But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the
generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will
build its future.
For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in
poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do
not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky or
happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live
our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job loss or a sudden illness
or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each
other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not
sap our initiative.
They strengthen us.
They do not make us a nation of takers. They free us to take the risks that
make this country great.
That last line referenced the makers
3.html> versus takers language of Congressional Budget Committee chairman
Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who as his partys presidential nominee
suggested that the 2012 election was in many senses a battle between an
imagined majority and a dismissed 47 percent.
As it happened, Ryan and Mitt Romney won just 47 percent of the vote on
November 6. Barack Obama and Joe Biden won 51 percent, and with it a
overn> mandate that Obama seems willing finally to embrace. The Barack Obama
eech-transcript/story?id=6689022> his first term as a remarkably popular
figure who seemed almost overwhelmed by the challenges left over from the
failed president of George W. Bush begins his second term as a confident
leader who knows well that he made mistakes of strategy and position in his
first term and who is determine this time to chart a different course.
Will Obama disappoint in this second term? Yes. Will he need to be poked and
prodded, chastised and challenged by Americans who demand that the
progressive language of his inaugural address bein Obamas wordsmade
real? Absolutely. More so now than ever.
But with this inaugural address President Obama has offered an indication
ry_not> heard the American people on November 6. They were not re-electing
him merely because they liked him as a man. They were re-electing him to
dispense with the fantasyentertained not just by Republicans but by too
many Democratsthat freedom is reserved for the lucky or happiness for the
few. And to complete the journey from Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall
and to the place of economic justice where every citizen has that basic
measure of security and dignity that can and must be Americas promise.
* * *
(This is one of many responses you can read on the URL at the top. Hedges
full article is at
* Here's a scorcher of a Link o' the Day, hot off the presses:
A Time for Sublime Madness By Chris Hedges at Truthdig
The planet we have assaulted will convulse with fury. The senseless
greed of limitless capitalist expansion will implode the global economy. The
decimation of civil liberties, carried out in the name of fighting terror,
will shackle us to an interconnected security and surveillance state that
stretches from Moscow to Istanbul to New York. To endure what lies ahead we
will have to harness the human imagination. It was the human imagination
that permitted African-Americans during slavery and the Jim Crow era to
transcend their physical condition. It was the human imagination that
sustained Sitting Bull and Black Elk as their land was seized and their
cultures were broken. And it was the human imagination that allowed the
survivors in the Nazi death camps to retain the power of the sacred.
It is the imagination that makes possible transcendence. Chants,
work songs, spirituals, the blues, poetry, dance and art converged under
slavery to nourish and sustain this imagination. These were the forces that,
as Ralph Ellison wrote, we had in place of freedom. The oppressed would be
the firstfor they know their fateto admit that on a rational level such a
notion is absurd, but they also know that it is only through the imagination
that they survive. Jewish inmates in Auschwitz reportedly put God on trial
for the Holocaust and then condemned God to death. A rabbi stood after the
verdict to lead the evening prayers....
"Will Obama disappoint in this second term? Yes."
Make that a resounding one. By the way, weird situation that it's
the right-wing nutters who are up in arms --pun, sort of, intended-- over
Obama's essentially right-wing shenanigans, and it's the African-American
community which remains the most loyal to Obama, even as they are poised to
take the brunt of the worst of what austerity will soon bring.
As much as it perhaps strains cedibility to think it, there really
ought to be some sort alliance formed between the tea-partier types who
recognize that civil liberties are on the verge of being obliterated, and
the occupiers who understand more intelligently why that is.
It's going to be an interesting year, 2013.
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