Friday, January 05, 2007

Madam Speaker: An Historic Moment


It was quite a sight, Bush, even on the television screen: children scampering around the floor of the House, spouses chit-chatting, a sense of fun everywhere. The sanctuary of suits and ties was transformed wonderfully into a more inclusive representation of humanity.

A lot was made, of course, of history being made as the first woman accepted the gavel of the United States Congress from her male predecessor. And Nancy Pelosi did a fine job, I thought, of conducting the whole event with a great deal of dignity, but without too much self-importance. She struck the right note between pride in her achievement and a sober appraisal of the work to be done. She managed to be light-hearted, a little giddy, even—but serious at the same time.

Quite a change, though, you’ll have to admit, in the image of power. That gavel has an unmistakably phallic air about it, and the symbol of its passage into female hands could have traumatic repercussions among those attached to its historic charge. I’d like to think, however, that it embodies a deeper change in the way in which we think about power in this country: that it doesn’t have to be male, suited, self-protective, competitive. It doesn’t have to relish “victory” or regard “defeat” as disgraceful and intolerable. It doesn’t have to be hard and unemotional: it can be nurturing and loving as well. Good lessons for a country that has been short on compassion for its own needier children and on the spirit of generosity toward other, less fortunate parts of the globe.

I did think it more than a little ingenuous on the part of your Republicans—now piously embracing the spirit of “bi-partisanship”, along with your good self—to be whining on about the unfairness of it all. The common refrain in response to the Democrats’ eagerness to get a running start on some basic, long-neglected legislation was generally: “How dare they do what we did?” Having successfully used the rules of order to silence Democrats and stymie their ability to set agendas, speak to the issues, or even to propose amendments, your folks on the Hill, it seems, are now having to taste a little of their own medicine, and the taste is bitter, Bush, and not at all to their liking.

I’m not sorry for them. Let them suffer. They have been for so long insufferable themselves, they deserve to eat a slice or two of humble pie. But Democrats must be careful—and I think they will—not to follow the example of their predecessors in power for too long. They, too, are preaching the benefits of by-partisanship to the country, and it behooves them to live up to what they preach. Let’s keep our fingers crossed, Bush, and hope that both sides of the aisle prove capable of serious, respectful cooperation.

My final thought: if you yourself are serious about rescuing your presidency from its growing reputation as the worst in the history of the United States, you’ll follow the same path; and begin by listening to the collective wisdom of the people of this country when deciding on your “new way forward” in Iraq.

1 comment:

PK said...

Yes, it was an exciting day. Glad a woman made the transition, however, I will be looking at her as a Democrat period. I don't know how many others will follow that path. I do hope she will be one of them once it sinks in she has work to do. This country is not just made up of women's problems or situations, God knows we have plenty of them, but there are bigger fish to fry, and we need a strong Dem up there to take care of them. The 'new way forward' is going to be just that as far as Bush is concerned, 'forward', more troops... dig in and stay there. He's already firing generals as I type, and putting in ones that will do what he wants done. Whatever the people had to say with our election meant nothing to him. And so, we will have to fight it all the way. We need people out there writing, calling and E-mailing the Senate and Congress saying no more troops! None the less, I'm happy we have our Dem up there. Good post Peter...