Saturday, January 22, 2005

Inauguration Day

Here I am a day late and at least a dollar short to talk about the inauguration. After what seemed like an endless primary and election season, George W. Bush has again been sworn in as President. Four more years. I will not lie and say I am thrilled about this. Quite the contrary, it worries me. When I see what he and his administration have done to this country during their first term, I shudder to think what might happen in the second. War with Iran? The first steps to dismantle social security, turning it into a savings account for yuppies while leaving the people it was designed to help behind? We already have elderly people who are forced to decide between food and medication. I can't imagine this will get better without SSC. It makes me wonder what he might do if he weren't a compassionate conservative.

And then there is the inauguration itself. We live in a time of war with soldiers complaining about not having proper gear. We live in a time of natural disasters (the holiday tsunami, California, etc.), yet we just held an inauguration estimated to cost around 40 million dollars. Isn't there an ethical question in spending that kind of money on a party in such a time? According to USA Today, Washington D.C.'s costs are expected to be at least 17.3 million. And how is this money to be reimbursed? The federal government is pushing the district to divert the funds from homeland security.

Living in a region that clearly voted for John Kerry, I did not see a lot of excitement over the inauguration. If fairness, this may also have something to do with my circle of friends. We tend to be a liberal group. I know that my city had at least a few protests, though. During our lunch break, I walked down to the park with a fellow juror to see what was happening at a rally sponsored by a local VFW group and a couple of peace organizations. All in all, it was pretty small with maybe 100 people attending by the time we got there. We stayed for an hour and helped hang Buddhist prayer flags containing the names of American soldiers who've died in Iraq. There were also flags representing the Iraqis who've died.

Regardless how one feels about the necessity of this war, I don't know how any one with any compassion cannot be moved by the thought of the many people who have died for it (and will die in the days to come). For me it was a sobering reminder that while the media is worried about what kind of gowns the Bush twins will wear, there are people out there dying.

Speaking of the media, I am always perplexed by their response to demonstrations. As a general rule, it seems like they try to downplay the positive aspects and hone in on any negative ones - anarchists, violence, protestors who don't know what they're protesting, etc. It seems like every time they interview someone at a protest, it's some stoned looking guy in a homemade crocheted cap; the kind of guy who couldn't find the U.S. on an unlabelled map, let alone Iraq. It gives the impression that all protesters are hippie dippy fruitcakes. Having been to a few anti-war protests at the beginning of the war, I can tell you that the majority are just normal people. The same people you see at the grocery store, work, wherever. The fringe elements may be louder, but I sincerely believe that they are not greater in numbers.

But here we are at the beginning of four more years. I can't say that I am overly optimistic, although it is my hope that people do not just shrink away, leaving the administration unchecked. I hope that Democrats will support senators like John Kerry and Barbara Boxer who step up an vote their conscience. They are the only two on the senate foreign relations committee who voted against the confirmation of Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State. I have no problem with a senator voting to confirm, if s/he believes the candidate is the best person for the job, however, these people who express a boatload of reservations, then turn around and "reluctantly" vote in support need to be reminded that they are there to serve the interests of the public. Weenie-ing out, because you're too impotent to claim a real opinion, is not representing the needs of your constituency. At best it seems a means of trying to pander to the administration ("but we reached out and confirmed your nominee") and appease those who might disagree ("well, I did go on record as being reluctant"). That is bullshit. If you're reluctant to support a candidate because you feel she is wrong, then don't support her! Unfortunately, that is all to often what seems to happen at these hearings - senators give a boatload of reasons for why they have reservations, then when asked how they will vote, they say "Oh, I will vote to confirm" as if there is no other option.

I guess I've drifted a bit from my original topic. Let's just say it is going to be another interesting (and I suspect, for me, often maddening) four years.


Jen said...

I don't think you're a day late and a dollar short - better to regain some coherence of thought instead of blind rage. Or maybe that's just me... I tried watching it a couple of times, but always had to get up and leave the room because just looking at him makes me crazy. Not a very effective method for staying in touch with the news - but I find if I don't actually have to hear him speak I can concentrate on what he's saying (and how how heinous it is) instead of how much I would like to slap the smirk off of his face. Transcripts and The Daily Show are my friends!

I, like you, also find it obscene how much money was spent on this - they spent more on the inauguration than was originally pledged for tsunami relief, for Pete's sake! Like I needed to see he and Laura awkwardly dance at 20 different parties! I understand the need for the ceremony, and I have far more respect for that than the man participating in it.

I'm reading What's the Matter with Kansas right now, and I think you'd really like it if you haven't read it already. It addresses a lot of these riddles of government and voting - like why people would elect someone who diametrically opposes their own interests. It's pretty interesting.

Martina said...

"What's the matter..." sounds really interesting. I will have to put it on my hold list at the library (but after you return it - I don't want to be the bitch who recalled your book!). Right now I'm still reading short stories by the Vampire Tapestry woman when I can stay awake long enough. Who knew being on a grand jury would be so draing (but still REALLY interesting...)? I'll let you know how the others are, but I really do like that first one that was based on Phantom of the Opera.

Jen said...

Don't worry about putting it on hold - you will be bitch number 249 making me wait for it to come back to me again! I didn't get it all the way finished, only about half, but it is very interesting. It deals almost exclusively with Kansas politics, but a lot of the national conservative movement has come right out of there. I've already put it on hold again and hope I don't have to wait too long to get it back!

In non-book-I-am-reading news, I hope you do another post about your grand jury duty. At least as much as you are able with security restrictions, etc.

Martina said...

Well, I think there are enough people ahead of me that I won't have to be the bitch who recalled your book. That is good news. In jury news, there are so many things I want to write about, but a lot of it I can't write or even talk about. I will work on finding something general and interesting, but not specifically about any case. It is a fascinating experience though. I still stand by my comment that if I could be a professional grand juror, I totally would!