“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for Mankind” (Elvis Presley, Jailhouse Rock)
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!” (Joe Rogan, Host of FearFactor)
There have been times when, despite our best efforts to remain ignorant or foolish or just generally stupid, history has had the bad manners to intrude on our wallowing; insinuating itself into our self-definition and badly formed identity until we’ve had no choice but to consider the possibility that maybe, just maybe, we don’t deserve to be eaten by giant space-rabbits with cosmic-grade bad breath.
Today was one of those days.
Today, somewhere around two million people went to Washington D.C. to see our 44th president sworn in. They spent hour after hour in freezing temperatures waiting for HISTORY to play itself out before their very eyes. (Never mind the fact that 1,999,000 of them were too far away to really make anything out; never mind the fact that 1,999,000 of them would only be able to hear a portion of the speeches and have to make up for it later by reading transcripts on the Internet; they were THERE!)
They were there to see a man completely unknown on the national stage five years ago ascend to the most difficult and demanding seat of mortal (and moral!) responsibility in the entirety of human history!
Notice I didn’t say “power” but rather, “responsibility”. I say it that way because, despite the trappings of “power” that surround the office of the Presidency--the White House, the limo, Marine One, Air Force One, the Oval Office itself--it is less an office and more a mantle of expectation and responsibility. It’s a mantle that has been known to crush its wearer (Nixon, Taft, That guy from “24”!) and lift him to immortality (Lincoln, Kennedy, Harrison Ford!). It is a mantle that, once worn, can never be removed while the President is still in office. And it will take the measure of its owner.
President Barack Obama is now the 44th wearer of that mantle. He will be called upon every day to be worthy of its grandeur and tend to its needs, and the weight of that mantle upon his shoulders will be ever-dependent on how he wears it.
If the mantle is flaunted; waved in the faces of friends and foes alike, it becomes heavier and heavier. It becomes a burden so great; it cannot be waved and fluttered any more! This is by design.
But if the mantle is allowed to rest lightly; indeed if it is made secondary to the tasks for which it stands, it becomes ever more beautiful. Ever more effervescent. Ever more a symbol of the selfless nature our Founding Fathers intended it to represent!
Today, history was made. A man who, twenty years ago (or perhaps as little as twenty days ago) would have had trouble hailing a cab in almost any major American City, became our President. But he is not the one who made history. We are.
God Bless America!