Tuesday, January 20, 2009

We have a new President. Now we need a new word.

Today was a big day for our country, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum. The inauguration of a new President is a big deal.

The inauguration of any President is a big deal. The inauguration of any President brings change. It's an exciting time.

All of the hub-bub of the day is certainly exciting. But mostly, the hub-bub got me thinking today. And here are my thoughts....

One thing I hope for the people of this country is that we are keeping our perspective on this change that has begun. We've used and heard the word "change" so much over the past few months of campaigns, election, and now on this day as our 44th President takes office, the word itself has almost taken on a life of its own. Or perhaps it's lost its real meaning.

Personally, I'm sick of hearing it. Not because I don't believe in it. Not because I am bitter towards the situation. I'm just concerned that the expectation and the excitement has ruined the word forever. And I'm concerned that "change" may translate into "undo" for those who are championing the word as though "change" is the answer to a world full of problems. It feels like the hope I'm hearing about today is synonamous with "change." And that's a little scary.

As a wise man once said, "I do not think that word means what you think it means." (Name the movie....)

Here's the thing, for me. Today, President Obama pledged to restore hope to this country. But, I had hope for this country before today, before Obama, during the last eight years of Bush, and I'll continue to have hope long after the Obama hype and the man himself has moved on. There are millions of Americans who have never stopped having hope for this country.

There's never been a reason to lose hope in this country. And if your hope started today, there's a bigger problem in this country than the problems that just left Office. Having hope is not a change.

I've been proud to be an American for 33 years. Well, at least for as long as I can remember. Today is not the day that makes me proud to be an American again. If you haven't been proud to be an American during the last eight years, that's a bigger problem that has nothing to do with the people who will come and go as our Commander in Chief.

Being proud of this country is not a change, and should not be a change that begins today.

President Obama also pledged to restore prosperity to our country. I don't know if you've looked around the world lately, but by any standard just about anywhere, the United States is an extremely prosperous country. I don't think this country's success in the area of prosperity is the issue, or even a concern. Prosperity is not what needs to be restored.

Yes, we are in an economic struggle. And we do have a lot of work to do to recover to a place of stability. But again, I ask that we keep things in perspective. This is not the poorest we've been or the worst situation we've been in. Prosperity (aka "greed") is actually the root of the problem that we have right now.

We certainly have challenges ahead. But, hear this: Obama cannot make the difference by himself. He may represent a new face on things. But by himself, he can't get a whole lot done.

I found this blog today and appreciated the message it gives and the perspective it brings, even though it's a little snarky even for my tastes. The hype of today, of Obama, is dangerous, and we need to chill. The worst thing we can do right now is set the man of the hour up for failure by placing all of our hopes in one basket, one man, one word . . . "change."

The party ends tonight, ladies and gentlemen. The 108 inaugural balls will end, the clock will strike midnight, the glass slipper gets left behind and our new President turns back into a working pumpkin tomorrow.

Because tomorrow, the world's eyes are on him. But not because he "is the change," or because he's popular among celebrities, or because he's hot, or because he's our first African-American President. None of that matters for the next four years. The celebrity "bubble" that's been the part-ay atmosphere since November is over. He will not be judged by his celebrity, by his abs, by how his wife dresses, or by the new Presidential puppy.

He will be judged by his successes, and his failures, as all other Presidents who have gone before him. And no matter how much hope you found today, there will be failures, my friends.

Tomorrow, the work begins. Tomorrow we begin to see what he's really made of, and what "change" really means.

Tomorrow he starts the massive task of proving himself, filling the shoes of Presidents before him, and leading this country into unity and to the next stage in our future. President Obama will not be compared only to now-former President George W. Bush. He'll be put up against all Presidents who have gone before him. And "change" should not be compared only to the past eight years.

This isn't a fad. This isn't Hollywood. This isn't a hip slogan about "change." This is the real deal now, folks. Let's get this thing into perspective.

I hope to be impressed by whatever change comes about, and I hope it takes the right amount of time to come into play so that it is effective, positive, and the best change it can be. No more, no less. I hope to be impressed by this man, our 44th President. I hope we celebrate him as much on his last day in office as we did today, on his first day. I don't see any reason why that can't happen.

But mostly, I hope we find a new word to use to shape and ultimately to remember this Presidency. This cannot be the Change Administration. No self-respecting leader wants to be known only for change. And I guarantee this: if change is the expectation, we will not be disappointed . . . except where the changes might not be in our best interest as a country, or the changes don't come soon enough for many of our expectations . . . or the changes don't mean what we thought they meant.

So, I encourage us to let that word go. I don't want to hear anymore about change, unless you are loaning me some change so I can get a Coke out of the machine.

But if we can't let it go, if we must keep that word as our mantra to get through the next four years, let's consider substituting another word. Like "pizza," or "bear hugs." Something that doesn't make me cringe or think of menopause (going through "the change") every time I hear it.

I appreciated much of Obama's speech today, particularly his reminder that the truths we desire and the truths we must adhere to today are the same truths that this country was founded upon. That never changes, no matter the person in place as our President.

That's a good reminder to us all, that maybe we aren't really in search of change in the way we have abused the word. But rather, maybe we just need a shift in focus to reposition our functionality back to our values that have always been there, from the beginning.

Bear hugs, y'all. Bear hugs.



Michelle said...


And I LOVE The Princess Bride :)

Jodi@homegrownhearts.com said...

Ah, Michelle beat me. I was going to leave almost the exact same comment.

This has been a long day of not knowing quite how to feel. I think there will be a lot of disappointed people when the truth comes out - that our new president isn't anymore super-human than his predecessors were. The sheer adoration scares me, frankly.

Like you, I have the same hope for our country that I've always had. Today changes nothing in that regard. I never gave up hope and I pray the day never comes that I do.

MadMup said...

Very well said, as usual.

Bonnie said...

I think the biggest problem with almost ALL people's perspectives (regardless of political affiliation) is that there is way too much pre-judgment going on. I know Republicans expecting a train wreck (their own term), and Democrats expecting salvation. I feel the wisest course is to withhold judgment and let the new president's actions speak for themselves. I think your blog holds this position.

Your comment on change: you say we need a shift in focus... I looked up the word shift and most of its many definitions include the word change. You're substituting a synonym. Even if we are going back to old values, we are changing from the current ones. I think people know exactly what change means, and they want it, whether you are tired of the word or not.

And finally, hope and pride: I think as Christians, we shouldn't be putting our hope or our pride in this country or any man. I am not proud to be American: it is a place that I came from and live in, and I'm grateful for any opportunities it has given me, and I will try to fight any evils it has instilled in me. Americans need to do some traveling and get a reality check: there are lots of great countries in existence, and we do some things better than them, while they do some things better than us. If your hope and pride rests in any country or person (including yourself), you are sure to be disappointed.

The Cynical Tyrant said...

Bonnie, thanks for your comments and thorough research of the word change. But I don't agree that a shift is the same as a change, and my point is that the word "change" has been used and abused.

Change in the way it has been represented is synonymous with "complete overhaul." Or . . . "undo everything Bush did." The "shift" in focus I'm referring to is shifting our focus away from "change" and instead putting some energy into the real task at hand.

I disagree that the majority of people whose lives were "changed for the better" as of yesterday really understand the word change in the context of what has been promised. I agree that they want change, but I don't think the changes they'll get are the changes they think are coming.

We aren't changing back to old values. We are reminded that those values are still there. They were there for Bush and he did his best to lead under those values. Obama will do the same, I am confident of that.

As Christians, we can absolutely have hope and pride in and for this country. We were given this country. There is a lot to be proud of. I do agree with you that our hope and pride should not REST on this country or with one man. But if you are not proud to be here, don't be here. And there is nothing wrong with being here and being proud of it, or being somewhere else.

You are right, there is a world full of other wonderful countries out there. I've seen some of them and I have not been to a place yet that I have not loved. But, this country is home. And I'm not a fairweather fan that changes my loyalties depending on who sits in the President's chair on any given day.

If your pride leaves or arrives depending on the changing of the guard, you are just following the rockstars that come and go. A groupie, if you will.

We have to shift our focus away from the hero-worship that already preceeds Obama. It's dangerous.

The word "change" will become a problem in this administration. It created the wave that rode Obama into office, but if we keep harping on it, it will undo the job he has to do. I don't want that for him, or for this country.


Kate said...

Great post