I understand finding something to get excited about in the idea of Barack Obama being president (I don't share it, but I can see where it comes from). I cannot understand anyone with any progressive tendancies not being appalled by his speech. The first commentary I read on the speech which made sense was Louis Proyect's:
In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.
[Yes, they wrote books about that. They are called Horatio Alger stories and they are bullshit. Bill Gates got where he is by being born into one of Seattle's richest families and by exploiting technology that had hitherto been common property.]
The Daily Show also did pretty well
I don't have time (or interest) to pick apart the whole speech, but there was one section that really stuck out to me*:
For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West, endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.
For us, they fought and died in places Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.
Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life.
I'm going to ignore the reference to Vietnam because that's a whole nother rant, which I'm going to assume that the reader can supply themselves. I will quickly draw attention to the fact that this narrative of US history ignores anyone who was living there before European colonisation.
But my point is something quite different. People did toil in sweatshops, endure the lash of the whip and plow the hard earth. But they didn't do these things because they wanted to create the world that exists now, they did it because the alternative was starvation or death.
Millions of people worked in sweatshops, were held as slave and farmed in difficult conditions. They did so with varying degrees of control and consent. To say they did these things to bring about the world that currently exists is obscene. Millions of people have millions of different dreams, struggles and views of the purposes of their lives. Maybe some people were aiming to create the world that currently exists. But I know that some slaves, workers and farmers had a different idea of the worlds that they wanted to create. I know, because I've read about them, that some dreamed of worlds much like the world I fight for.
To claim generations of people were struggled and were exploited because so they could help create the world that we live in now is both ignorant and arrogant
* Although can I just say his view of the unselfish worker who gives up his hours so his friend will keep his job made was despicable boss pandering. How about both those workers go on strike to keep everyone's job and reclaim some profits from the bosses. I'm not saying I expect anything else from the president of the united states. I'm just saying that I don't see how anyone could have seen Barack Obama's inauguration address as doing anything but choosing sides with the rich and powerful