Well, we have a new President. Barack Hussein Obama took the oath of office this morning, and you could practically hear America breathing a collective sigh of relief. It's truly a watershed moment in American history.
I'm glad Obama won the election. I voted for him and supported his candidacy, and I truly believe the right man got the job. He brings a spirit of optimism to the country that we haven't seen since the days of John F. Kennedy. I know that I should be over the moon after this morning, dancing naked in the streets and jumping over bonfires. And yet...
President Obama has made a few troubling decisions in recent days. I realize he's just taken office, but he's certainly been in the spotlight since November 4, and some of the positions he's taken already are enough to make me go, "Hmmmm."
First is his decision to have evangelical pastor Rick Warren deliver the inaugural invocation. Warren was an outspoken supporter of California's Proposition 8 - a bill designed to deny simple human rights to gays and lesbians - one of the most heinous pieces of hate legislation ever put on a ballot. Legislating bigotry and opression like this is akin to putting a bill on the ballot that would reintroduce slavery. It's wrong, it never should have happened, and it needs to be reversed. Now. By giving an admitted bigot and hatemonger like Warren such a national forum, Obama gives tacit approval to his beliefs. Barack ran on a platform of inclusion and change; why embrace the ways of the past in such a straightforward and offensive way? It's not like there's a shortage of pastors, ministers, or preachers in this country. As Obama should know better than any President to come before him, civil rights is an important issue, but civil rights have to apply to everyone, not just a particular minority group. I'm all for someone being strong in their faith, but not at the expense of someone else's rights.
Even more disturbing is the report from CNN that Obama has stated that he has no intention of eliminating the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy (one of his widely-quoted campaign promises), and that he has no interest in pursuing investigations into illegal activities by Bush staffers and administration, specifically regarding their actions concerning the Department of Justice. If these people, or anyone in the Bush administration, broke the law and betrayed the public trust, they should be held accountable, just as any public citizen would be. That is, ideally, how our system of government works, that no one is above the law. To ignore their crimes for the sake of political expediency is reprehensible. There are many people who would like to see former Vice-President Dick Cheney held responsible for authorizing torture at Guantanamo Bay, for example. The chances of that actually happening seem slimmer and slimmer.
Of course, Obama has just been sworn in, and anything can still happen. I voted for him and I intend to support him. But that doesn't mean that I won't be the first to cry "Foul!" or criticize the man when he loses sight of the reason he was elected. We put him in office not because he was young, and not because he was black, and not because he was polished. We put him in the office because we truly felt that he was the best possible person to lead us out of the dark pit of despair in which we've found ourselves, back into the bright light of hope. He has a House and a Senate that are solidly behind him. Now, after today's festivities are over, Barack Obama needs to hit the ground running and begin the process of healing, rebuilding, and inspiring this much-maligned nation. He needs to do this not for the black community, not for the evangelicals, not for the wealthy and powerful. He needs to do it for everyone, and he needs to do it fast.
Let's hope he's up to the task he's undertaken.