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The Point: The future will be different

Published: January 23, 2009
Section: Opinions


<i>ILLUSTRATION BY Alex Doucette/The Hoot</i>

ILLUSTRATION BY Alex Doucette/The Hoot

Maybe other people are bored with the Obama Fever that’s gripped the nation, but I’m not. My parents aren’t either—they’re taking advantage of this historic event to stock up on everything with our new president’s image on it, including a five-pack of “Yes, We Did!” stickers and several commemorative mugs. They seem to believe all this schwag will be worth money someday, and, honestly, I’m inclined to believe it will. I still feel a surge of delight and pride when I see the young, handsome, non-torture-condoning First Family out and about.

And for real fans, Tuesday was our ultimate day. The inauguration! How could you not love it? The drama! The crowd shots! The John Williams score! Like lots of Brandeisians, I spent the hours between 11 and 1 in the Campus Center, crowded around the TV. After some initial boner-killing courtesy of Reverend Rick Warren (we get it, Jesus is the reason for election season and you have a small, pointed goatee), the good stuff started.

Reactions were mixed on Obama’s speech and it’s true that it wasn’t The Gettysburg Address or even his tear-dredging performance at the DNC. But it was good and, more importantly, it was worlds away from the Bush rhetoric of the past eight years. Did you ever think you’d see a president reach out to “non-believers”? Did you think you’d see him eschew greed for social responsibility? Although nothing was better than the weak applause that followed his thank-you to Bush: it was the sound of two million people saying, “Oh, right. That guy. Didn’t really want to think about him, but okay.”

There was drama, of course. Ted Kennedy had a seizure. More attention was paid, as usual, to Michelle Obama’s hotness/preference for yellow to her poise and accomplishments. Obama went to give GWB a high-five, but then pulled away his hand at the last minute and said, “Too slow.” But for me, the most entertaining part of the afternoon was seeing Dick Cheney in a wheelchair. I’m not saying that to be cruel—no one deserves to be hurt or sick—but I am saying that his transformation into Dr. Strangelove is now complete. I’m not the first one to point that out (The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg blogged about it, notably) but that is because it’s so painfully apparent. Dick Cheney is being wheeled to a Doomsday machine where he will spend all eternity with a black-gloved hand trembling above its lever. This was his dream all along. How could we not see that?

In all seriousness, today was, if nothing else, a somewhat surreal reminder that nothing stays the same forever. Things change—even if it isn’t Obama-style change, it still happens. At noon on that day, the U.S. ceased to be George Bush’s America forever. It was before the speeches, before the swearing-in. It was just the natural, legal functioning of the Constitution; on that day, at that time, things changed. Even if we don’t know what’s coming next, we can take comfort in the fact that it will be different. Even milk, when it spoils, becomes something else.