We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal
Yesterday was Martin Luther King Day in the US, and today the first black President of the United States of America was sworn in. It doesn’t get much more symbolic than that. Few people will remember that a certain Senator John McCain voted against the creation of a day celebrating Dr King, and defended the governor of Arizona when he overturned the day of celebration created by his Democratic predecessor. History may have no consciousness independent of man, but it certainly has poetry.
In his speech Obama caressed each of the touchstones of American political rhetoric: scriptural flourish, a young nation, war dead, America as the product of each individual’s labour and so on. Despite this, many of Obama’s themes are likely to resonate with the Left; the restoration of science to its rightful place, state-led economic regeneration, though his naked defence of the market as creator of freedom and wealth should sound warning bells.
Similarly, the distortion of history, of “facing down fascism and communism” in the traditionally jingoistic fashion of the American political elite, falls well short of what we might have hoped for. For a nation so buried in truism and cliché, it would have been a sight to see had Obama’s inauguration made a radical departure, to be dissected, rehashed and reheated across the media from now til Obama’s first executive orders begin pouring out, to undo much of what GWB did.
For all the cynicism, the punditry or the willful naivety taking place in America tonight, in one of the most unequal nations on Earth, the whole scene stands in the shadow of great words, uttered long ago. “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.”