Monday, January 24, 2005

An Orgy of Excess

Back when I was in the music business we had an ironic saying to help ourselves put up with less than great conductors: "Bad taste is better than no taste at all." I've come across a number of articles lately that point out what the $40 million price tag for the inauguration could have paid for in terms of relief for tsunami victims and armor for our fighting men and women in Iraq. I actually sent an email to the president urging him to opt for a simple inauguration and to allocate the money saved for relief efforts. Somehow I had the hope that if enough other people made the same demand the administration would at least get the message that many of us considered the overly elaborate celebrations during wartime to be inappropriate. Personally, I find it astonishing that this member of a prominent and wealthy upper class family would indulge in such appallingly bad taste. But this is a president who also indulges the affectation in himself of wearing cowboy boots with a tuxedo.

One of the American newspapers I truly admire is the San Francisco Chronicle. I want to recommend a column in today's edition by Harley Sorenson who has similar views to mine on the inauguration extravaganza.

If it had been up to me, last week's inauguration would have been held in the Oval Office or some similar venue, with perhaps only a few dozen people on hand. It would have cost ... oh, I don't know ... perhaps $12. Instead of paralyzing the District of Columbia and turning it into a kind of fortress prison, it would have inconvenienced almost nobody.

Disliking George W. Bush as I do, I would like to fault him for last week's excesses, but I'm afraid they all do it. There seems to be a competition. Each new chief executive that you and I hire seems to strive to be more obscenely gaudy than all those before him.

For novelty, last week's show had the added fillip of forced isolation for dissenters. What a country!

I've never been a fan of pomp and circumstance. Perhaps shows like the one last week are too reminiscent of similar shows in Red Square on May Days. Or I think of those impressive rallies held by the Germans in the 1930s, or the Chinese communists in more recent years. Central American dictators were once famous for their fancy uniforms and their impressive parades and ceremonies. Those shows remind me of evil, and I hate to see them in our nation's capital.

And why, I wonder, do we always have to flex our muscles at these events? All nations seem to do it. Think of the massive military displays by the Soviets during their heyday. I'd prefer a display of our accomplishments rather than proof of our ability to kill.

Sorenson also has exasperated words to say about the inauguration address:

Bush's speech last week was delivered well. He seems to be growing with his job. But the speech's content was sorely lacking. They say the speech went through 41 revisions. I would have recommended 42.

What did our president say about the continuing problem of election fraud in the United States? What did he say about our medical treatment problems? About the millions of workers out of work or holding down mere survival jobs far below their capabilities? How about our growing national debt, our inability to live within our means? How about the real economic crises in cities and counties and states? How about our effect on climate change? What are we doing to preserve our environment? How are we preparing for the diminution of the world's oil reserves?

Finally, as someone who worked in and around Washington D.C. for most of my adult life, I want to express my disgust that Bush forced the District of Columbia to foot the bill for the extra security needed in the city. Traditionally that is paid for by the administration in power. But, of course, D.C. went for Kerry so what can we expect?


3 comments:

  1. No offense dear but if you really think that any inauguration would have cost less you are living in lala land. By the same logic consider all the things that could go to relive the suffering if THK were to liquidate her assets and send the money to the tsunami victims. Incidentally he isn't even the fifth president to wear cowboy boots with a tux. You bitterness over the election seems to have overridden your obviously underdeveloped reasoning skills.

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  3. Anonymous3:10 AM

    The amount spent on the inauguration was abhorrent, but what was absolutely terrifying was from where a lot of the money came. Much of the money came from big corporations throwing private inaugural parties in order to court political favors--this money does not count as campaign contributions so they are allowed to spend as much as they wish. To me this is more disturbing than if it had all come from our tax money. I am sure the big corporations see courting political favor as a much better way of improving their profits than doing something like supporting tsunami relief.

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