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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day 2009

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

This is for those of you who have had it up to here with the inauguration hype. The rest of you who regard Barack Obama's presidential oath-taking today as the arrival of the Ultimate State of Being can go back to your rapture.

Others who have been alternately amused and appalled at the excesses of the precoronation preparations of the past few days should gather around for a little curmudgeonly reflection.

Oprah Winfrey unintentionally caught the unearthly spirit of it all the night Obama was elected when she told the TV show "Access Hollywood": "There are not even words to talk about what this night means. Everybody keeps using the word historic—there's never been a night like this on the planet Earth . . . nothing can compare to this."

The media have almost fatally choked on their endless diet of stories about parties, dress styles, the tears, the attending stars and celebrities, the electricity zapping through the heavens and the rest of the fawning. Please, someone apply the Heimlich maneuver.

PETA will be giving away unwanted fur coats to the homeless, splashed, of course, with paint so they cannot be sold later, not even by the homeless who could use the money. The swells in their evening gowns and tuxedos are being encouraged to ride mass transit to their galas, where they will dine off biodegradable containers. All plastic and Styrofoam have been banned, of course. "We're obviously not going to have paper towels in the bathroom," said one organizer, preferring instead air dryers, making me wonder if they have calculated which leaves the larger carbon footprint.

It's all so precious. Strikes me that if they had truly wanted to leave the smallest carbon footprint possible, they could have done their part by holding the inauguration in a phone booth. Instead, the extravagant affair has the flavor of rubbing the losers' noses in it.

But, that's the winner's job. The presidential inauguration may be our nation's strangest celebration: Half of the 300 million Americans are joyful, exuberant or out of their minds with excitement. The other half are sad, if not angry, or frightened. That's the way it always has been.

So, we might as well sit back and enjoy it. Even take some pride in the peaceful transfer of power. If this were Zimbabwe, the losers would be cranking up their tanks right now, instead of moping in front of their TVs. Obama's supporters sometimes may resemble whirling dervishes, spinning out of control. But, their joy is genuine, their adulation sincere and their optimism authentic. The rest of us shouldn't step on it; we should honor it. After all, it is a historic event—the first black man elected president. We have come far in my lifetime.

Many of us now are sitting on the sidelines, from which the cheering (or booing) emanates. It will be a matter of pride that in our disagreements with the new government, we will never lower ourselves as far as the Bush-haters have done for the past eight years, with their endless stream of scorn and sneering.

Obama's theme for his inauguration is "Renewing America's Promise." In his speech today I hope he will recognize the wellspring from which America's promise flows—a shared disposition to look for better times. Presidents Ronald Reagan and Franklin Roosevelt, who helped to pull us out of our gloom, recognized it. Perhaps Obama will, too, understanding that reigniting our optimism would do our economy more good than any $1 trillion stimulus package. The man came from nowhere (nothing better describes the Illinois legislature) and rose to the nation's most exulted office. He ought to be given a chance and respect. Even though I disagree with so much of what he stands for, I hope he succeeds. Even if it means I'm wrong. For a change.

Dennis Byrne is a Chicago-area writer and consultant. He blogs at

Copyright © 2009, Chicago Tribune


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Mr. Byrne. My sentiments exactly. $170 million wasted on a party?

Anonymous said...

Nice to see that Dennis The Pinhead isn't carrying any bitterness two months after the humiliating defeat of his party. Those "Bush-haters," Mr. Byrne? Guess what? Turns out they were absolutely right!
Oh, and your empty promise to be civil during the Obama administration? What a short memory you expect us to have, Mr. Byrne. We've already seen how your crowd behaves when out of power. We saw it during the eight years that your crowd spewed nothing but hate-filled bile during the Clinton administration. We hear it every time we turn on Limbaugh or Hannity or Beck. You are not only a pompous lying windbag Mr. Byrne, you are a dinosaur mired in the tarpit as history leaves you behind.

Dee said...

Thanks for expressing so well how over the top this has gotten. I just need to correct your figures a bit. You wrote that half of the 300 million Americans are jubilant. There are 230 million registered voters. Obama received 69 million votes so there are 161 million who are not cheering (those not registered don't count, many of which probably haven't learned to walk or drive yet). 30% of registered voters is not a mandate. Like you I disagree with most of his plans, don't wish his socialist policies any success. I'm sitting on the sidelines waiting for 2010.

Anonymous said...

Good old Anonymous continues the typical Leftie personal insults at the generous and honest column by Dennis Byrne. Is there anything these types can write that isn't itself hate-filled while calling everyone else "haters?" Liberals really do have a problem with projection.

I spent the morning of the inauguration at a Day of Reflection which is what I needed to calm my soul because I think that our country is headed in very bad directions due to Obama's views, intentions, and terrible appointments (a man who did not paid his taxes heading the IRS; Eric Holder of Marc Rich and FALN terrorist pardon infamy; Hillary Clinton and the cash to the Clintons from the Middle East, etc.).

Look at the mess left by the crowd -- didn't they learn to carry out what they brought there? Shows the classlessness of his supporters -- environmentalists all to hear them talk!


Karen said...

Really? Half of all Americans are scared, sad, or angry? Tell that to the CNN poll that had over three-quarters of Americans saying they see Obama as a strong, decisive leader, and the eight in ten who say he inspires confidence.

Also, I can't believe you're really belittling the inaugural organizers for throwing a more environmentally responsible party. What a silly thing to mock.