Here’s the sublime: two million people packed into Washington, D. C.; people from across the country and around the world; people of every race, color, creed, and more; people who carry with them something that’s been in very short supply lately — hope.
No matter what your political beliefs may be, you’d have to be pretty hard-hearted not to be moved by that very public demonstration of that very scarce commodity. Maybe you’ll even go right back to be hard-hearted today. Maybe you didn’t even wait that long. No matter. It was there, and it was obvious, and it was moving. And, for my money, that’s sublime.
As for the ridiculous, I passed a sign yesterday outside of a Taco Bell inviting folks to go to http://www.tacobama.com for free Inaugural Day tacos. Tacobama? Can we agree that that’s a sign that maybe, just maybe, the bandwagon may be a little larger than it should be?
Say what you will about Taco Bell, their (kind?) offer is a pretty good indicator of where our modern political process resides — squarely in the intersection of mass marketing and rhetoric. It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a modern marketing machine to elect a president, and it should be no surprise when the lines between commerce and politics get a little blurry. It’s as much about the spectacle as it is about the meaning.
Of course, getting elected is one thing. Running the country is another, and the latter relies on the kind of political machinations that most of us dont’ like to think about. As Otto Von Bismarck, Germany’s chancellor in the late 1800s, allegedly said, “If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made.” It’s a dirty business, filled with compromise and bargaining and strong-arming.
I’m sure that, deep down, many of the millions celebrating yesterday’s inauguration probably know that there’s a lot more to it than the celebration. Now that they’ve warmed up a bit, they may feel some apprehension about how well what was said during the campaign will match up with what actually gets accomplished. And, depending on your political orientation, such dissonance could be a good thing, or a very bad thing.
In the end, I have to say that the whole thing has left me feeling more optimistic than I would have imagined. I suppose that probably shouldn’t be too surprising. Because, hey, … free taco.