That was the first thing my husband reported to me when I arrived home yesterday.
As excited as I am about finally having Obama as president, I wasn't quite on the bandwagon of celebrating the inauguration. All that controversy over Rick Warren (and whether we should be having a prayer at all) kind of put me off the whole thing. Basically it's because I don't want to be the wet blanket who complains about a symbolic gesture when more important things are at stake, yet, at the same time, I didn't feel like watching the piety show. We have to defer to the in-group/loyalty value (as we were discussing on MSP) -- and to get any recognition at all for the out-group, it's important to reassure the in-group (Christians) that this isn't about displacing them as the true Americans. Calling it a necessary evil is perhaps a bit strong -- it's a necessary annoyance. So I figured I'd just read the Humanist Symposium Carnival version, and leave it at that.
Then I started getting excited, reading about it in the Swiss paper on my way home from work:
That makes two days in a row that Obama has been the cover story (not to mention that he was in the news all the time during the election season). As far as I can make out from my (extremely rudimentary, but improving) German, for the most part the Swiss like Obama, and they're very impressed that the U.S.A. has elected its first black president.
It may serve as something of a positive example. Here's the even-more-familiar image that I see staring at me around practically every corner wherever I go:
I attempted to photograph this thing myself, but this other person was a far more skilled photographer
I know, I know, I chose to move here where I'll be a "foreign guest worker" until retirement, dependent on the good will of my hosts. I don't really have a cause to complain since I knew what I was getting into. Still, it puts those people who were whining about feeling harassed by a few atheist ads on buses into perspective as the value of inclusiveness/expansiveness chips away at the value of in-group loyalty/privilege.
Now, probably some of you are probably itching to point out that the Swiss ad's crypto-symbolism is about the danger of dark people (like Barack Obama), not about white people like me and my husband. But the thing is I suspect that people who would be swayed by this ad probably have some opinions about the various nationalities of foreign white people as well. And apparently it's a mainstream position to believe that those rotten (dark?) foreigners are out to, well, peck Switzerland to death.
Anyway, back to President Obama's message of hope, encouraging us all to take on the challenges that we're facing. I watched it, and I thought it was fantastic! He said so many things that absolutely needed to be said. Apparently, a CNN commentator complained that it didn't have a strong phrase like "we have nothing to fear but fear itself" -- and it's true that Obama's key points were couched in long sentences or phrased as negatives. But I think Obama did it on purpose so that people would listen to the whole speech instead of reducing it to a catch phrase. He's already got "Yes, we can!" -- he doesn't need another one. I want to see the Christians and other believers on board for these noble goals, so I hesitate to begrudge them a prayer if it's important to them.
And, of course I appreciated that he explicitly included non-believers as Americans. Actually, it was clever that he threw in the thing about other languages right afterwards -- all the people who might have been saying "What??? I hope he's not talking about Spanish..." were too busy being distracted by "OMG!!! He said non-believers!" ;^)
Here's to inclusivity!!!