Staff editorial: For the people, by the people
A week ago I witnessed Barack Obama take the presidential oath and address our nation, a nation that stands at the threshold of crisis. In just over 20 minutes he turned my fears and doubts into pride and empowerment with a speech so full of dignity and grace, power and charisma that it restored my faith and reminded me of all that is great about the land of the free and home of the brave.
For nearly a decade I have sat by and watched our great nation become the butt of global jokes and the perpetrators of atrocities that would have our fore-fathers rolling over in their graves. In 20 minutes Obama helped me to remember the greatness of our democracy, the power of just one voice and our unparalleled ability to light up the darkness.
Directly after taking the oath, Obama pronounced how grateful he was for the trust bestowed upon him. I wish he knew how grateful so many of us are for his readiness to accept the arduous task at hand.
"Every so often the oath is taken among gathering clouds and raging storms," he expounded. "At these moments America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the the ideals of our forebearers and true to our founding documents."
No more true words have ever reached my ears. So often politicians seem eager to insure us of the brilliance of their plan to save the nation, economy or environment. However, the truth is we all know they are regurgitating someone else's ideas and praying that no one notices their inept attempts at originality.
In the last decade I have seen this country allow fear and inferior leadership destroy the foundation set forth by our nation's founders. I understand the constitution is a living, breathing document subject to change as the world changes around it. However, I also understand when those changes are set in motion with nefarious intention, the seeds of our democracy's undoing are planted in the nation's heartland.
I re-read the constitution following Obama's inauguration and it reminded me of the genius of its authors and freedoms meant for every citizen of this country.
The past administration promised us that after 9-11 no more attacks would take place on American soil. They held true to their word, but at what cost? I see Americans lose more and more freedoms every year and we accept this loss under the guise of protection. I see our citizens give in to illegal wire taps and the torture of human beings as a policy for the sake of safety. If that is the cost of safety, then it's much to high for me.
For nearly a decade those in the oil industry have gotten obscenely wealthy, obtaining record profits, while the common man had to decide during the summer of 2008 whether he was going to feed his family or put gas in his vehicle to get to work. Gouging went on and on at the pumps while working mothers decided how they were going to juggle day care schedules with a second job.
It has been said in the past weeks that only history will tell how America will judge George W. Bush's administration but I can tell you right now every online poll I have seen for the past month has listed him as the worst president in the history of the nation. While I can also tell you I won't miss cringing every time I heard him address the public, I do have to say that I believe it unfair to hang all the mess on Bush. But I do want to know this. Where was the Kenneth Starr for so many of the mishaps occurring over the last two presidential terms? Where is the ongoing public inquiry into an "accidentally" outed CIA agent? Where is the public questioning and lynching of an administration who allowed torture to take place under their watch?
Talk about 'don't ask, don't tell.'
I respect the office of the presidency or I would add several more comments to my thoughts on the outgoing administration. But what I can say to you from the bottom of my heart is that they robbed me of my belief in the goodness of our leaders. There are those who will say I am unpatriotic for putting my feelings in print, but I have never felt more a patriot in my life. Those chosen by the people must be held accountable by the people. And the accountability shown by the last administration amounted to a burning, stinking, heaping pile of lies. America deserves better. America deserves the truth.
I don't believe President Obama is going to save us with the magical swipe of his hand. I don't believe that things will really get better any time soon. The damage done will take time to repair and to be honest some of it may never be repaired. However, the unstoppable force of the American spirit was alive in every frozen face on the mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial last Tuesday.
America is in for a massive task if we are to restore ourselves to the ideals and perform the actions that make our country great. The words and strength of one man convinced me that we are able.
However, the difficult question, at the heart of the matter, is are we willing? Are we willing to rise to the occasion, put aside our individual greed and work together before we tear each other apart?