Eugene Jarecki: An Ode to Tomorrow

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This is a guest post by filmmaker and author Eugene Jarecki. The video clip above is from a talk that Jarecki gave last Thursday at the New America Foundation on the topic, “The American Way of War.”
The passage below is an original piece just drafted by Eugene Jarecki in commemoration of Barack Obama’s inauguration as the 44th President of the United States. The Washington Note is grateful to Eugene for allowing us to be the first to publish this powerful “ode to tomorrow.”
Eugene Jarecki’s 2006 film Why We Fight won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival as well as a Peabody Award. His new book, The American Way of War: Guided Missiles, Misguided Men, and a Republic in Peril, has just been released by Simon & Schuster/Free Press.

AN ODE TO TOMORROW
Though the future is yet unknowable, let us for a moment imagine that when we wake tomorrow it will be a new day in America.
Let us appreciate the poetry that once upon a time, a one-term congressman from Illinois became President of the United States and freed four million African slaves and, 145 years later, an African American first-term senator from Illinois – borne not of the rapacious legacy of that compulsory migration but rather of a voluntary choice by two adults – should become President of that same land.
Let us imagine that a nation once built on the scarred backs of black Africans could, in arguably her darkest hour since, be rescued by the son of a Kenyan exchange student and a white American woman from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Let us imagine that that man and woman could have met and married amid the sweltering heat of Jim Crow America and, just two weeks before the courageous freedom rides of 1961, produced a child whose very birth would seem a hopeful reminder of America’s long-deferred promises – of racial harmony, of social courage, and of the power of love to free us from the shackles of our self-annihilating prejudice.
Let us imagine still that that young child should, through hard work and self-acknowledged providence, have become the figure of serenity, fortitude, vision, and grace who has stood before us for 23 long months and kept his dignity.
Let us imagine that beside that graceful man has walked his true and intrepid partner, co-parent of two confident and glowing children, who likewise has conducted herself with poise, substance, and candor — cognizant of yet unspoiled by the toxic air of Washington.
Let us imagine that, opposite them, an opportunistic campaign of division, viciousness and ideological bankruptcy was overcome by one of decency and depth — that an effort to appeal to our lesser selves, to that in us which is divisible, was defeated by one that appealed to the best in us, to that which is indivisible.
Let us, though, not be fooled.
Let us not allow ourselves to be lulled into false comfort.
Let us go to sleep tonight and luxuriate, yes, in one night of hopeful rest.
And let us in those hours of sleep not plumb the darkness of the cynicism and doubt that have become a national affliction.
Let us sleep not with anger but in peace, secure in the hope that our hope shall endure and even prevail.
Yet let us wake tomorrow more vigilant than ever to ensure that the new day upon us shall not become the elusive phantom of a dream.
Let us commit ourselves – each of us individually and in concert — to whatever it will take in time, energy, and resources to demand that promises made along the way will be kept and that compromises struck will be weighed against the greater gravity of the challenges we face and, if judged inappropriate to the moment, be replaced by enterprises of greater courage.
Let us not forget that today’s triumph can become tomorrow’s loss if the battle won dulls our resolve to fight the larger war – a war not of bombs, machines, hubris, corruption, and shortsightedness (we’ve done all that) but rather one of souls, humanity, decency, justice, and, longevity.
Let us recognize that no single man – no matter how talented or well-intentioned — can possibly be a substitute for the much-needed chorus of a democracy.
Let us recognize that for that man to fulfill his promise to realize the kind of change we seek — in the care of our bodies, our minds, our children, our planet, our streets, our livelihoods, and our security — that we ourselves must be the agents of such change, whose unrelenting commitment to fundamental reform will be needed to give him the fortitude to battle the disfiguring forces of Washington.
Let us not forget
a government not of men but of laws,
a government of separated powers not arrogant ones,
a government of checks and balances honored not suspended, and finally,
a nation that is ever a work-in-progress, at her best when she recognizes and seeks to mend her frailties and at her worst when she denies them.
Let us not forget that, without accountability for the trespasses of recent years – the errors and wrongdoings that have cost tens of thousands of lives and shattered millions more — there is insufficient motivation for real and systemic change.
But of course, there will be time for all this.
For now, let us join with those around us in jubilation, with family, friend, and stranger alike, and commit ourselves that we shall all meet again — daily, weekly, in whatever ways our waking moments allow — to build the community, nation, and world we seek.
— Eugene Jarecki

Comments

5 comments on “Eugene Jarecki: An Ode to Tomorrow

  1. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Well, Ben. Thats what our “Representatives” are for. Its not like we can all run on down do our local Bush imposed chain-linked “Free Speech Zone” and get with our fellow non-represented and air our grieviences.
    Obama’s “questions” website is a perfect example of what horseshit the whole concept of “representation” has become. Did you catch my posts where I posted a sampling of what was on the website, questions from all over the United States? The number one query was what Obama planned to do about the crimes committed by the Bush Administration. The number two issue was whether or not Obama planned to pull our heads out of Israel’s ass. So, of course, two tepid sounding questions were advanced as being “the most asked”, and the site was closed down, and the questions were not archived.
    Perhaps you have forgotten how understated the anti-war protests were in our media.
    Or how these fucking cowards in the so called “opposition party” ignored the message we gave them in 2006?
    Without representation, “protest” becomes “rioting”, and the people’s voices become “sedition”. Bush has spent the last eight years preparing for the inevitable and looming awakening of the American people, to the point of discarding Habeaus Courpus, undermining Posse Comitatus, inventing labels such as “enemy combatant” that remove you from the protection of the law, designating “zones” where dissent and protest is removed from the medias’s eyes, without any opposition or substantive criticism from the cowards in Washington on the left.
    We no longer have a Representative Government. It is little more than a slogan, a pair of buzzwords that are bandied forth to maintain an illusion of people’s control.
    This obscene orgy currently unfolding in Washington, pissing 150 million dollars down the drain while American citizens lose their jobs and homes at a record pace. We can assemble to cheer and adore the elitist ruling class, the media a willing choreographer, but we must dissent and protest against these self-serving and above the law criminals in chain link enclosures now, ignored or under-reported by our own version of TASS.
    Its quite apropos that Michelle, as one of her first actions as First Lady will be engaged with spending the tax payer’s dollars by taking advantage of the most expensive and sought after Interior Designer on the continent. Of course, there are many struggling Interior Designers, with exceptional senses of design, serving local communities all over the United States, including the minority communities in Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, etc.. But, apparently, “change”, to the Obamas, doesn’t exclude paying the extra 500,000 dollars that it costs to tack a well known “name” onto the treatment of their living quarters.
    Can you imagine the boost a talented minority individual or firm could have gotten by landing the contract to do the design work on the Obama’s living quarters?

    Reply

  2. Ben Rosengart says:

    Warren,
    We can do more together than we can as individuals. The
    government is nothing more or less than a framework within
    which we can pool our efforts. To disparage “government” is to
    expect that “someone else” will take care of the many grave crises
    threatening our world today. There is no one else, and we have to
    step up to the plate. This is an American idea of “can-do”, and is
    as old as our nation.

    Reply

  3. Cee says:

    Eugene,
    You brought a tear to my eye with your words.

    Reply

  4. Warren Metzler says:

    I fail to understand, how it is that people fail to see the real
    problem; I’m referring to the content of the video. Which I
    suggest is that America offers the unique potential it does,
    because it provides a context that encourages people to be
    responsible for themselves and pursue their personal goals.
    And that context is fundamentally inconsistent with the
    government trying to make us safe, trying to protect us from
    bad businesspeople, trying to find ways to stimulate us to act.
    Until the government gets out of the business of being
    responsible for the lives of its citizens, the humans who make
    up the government will become more and more insane, and act
    in increasingly ridiculous ways.
    Any one who doesn’t recognize that Obama is the ultimate
    government take care of you person is a fool. By the end of his
    8 years we will be in far worse shape then we are today.

    Reply

  5. Brigid says:

    It’s amazing how many posters here are so ready to demean and dismiss this grand endeavor that is the United States of America and diminish the peaceful transfer of power, the conferring of high office by the people through this democratic ritual of inauguration.
    Here in America we are a work in progress, but we have the capacity to self-correct and to learn from the ruinous mistakes of the past. As a 20 year old young man I was crushed in 1968 by the ruined hopes, and thwarted potential, and the tragedy of war and assassination. I never thought this day would come. As a 60 year old man I am truly grateful that I live in such a country where a promising president like Barack Obama can be chosen as leader and be given the power and mandate of governance.

    Reply

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