Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Greco-Roman Legacy

Regardless of anyone's political persuasion, it is worth our time as Americans to consider that today's inauguration of President Obama was a prime example of the living legacy bequeathed us from the Classical cultures of ancient Greece and Rome. In her opening remarks at the ceremony, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) reminded us that "The world is watching today as our great democracy engages in this peaceful transition of power."

A peaceful transition of power.

How often has power peacefully changed hands in the history of the world? From tribes to city states to nation states, not to mention monarchies, oligarchies, and all manner of tyrannies as well, power has, more often than not, been transferred under violent and deadly circumstances.

Yet for all the vitriol and excoriating attacks during the campaign season, the American people cast their ballots, and the forty-fourth President of the United States took office today from the forty-third without one gun shot, without one body buried. Instead there was music, both soul and classical. There was music and there was prayer. And while some may not have liked the music or may have taken issue with the prayers, what no one can deny is that the seed of democracy, planted in Periclean Athens and developed in republican Rome, has flourished and produced its mature fruit in American soil.

We watched as an African-American citizen assumed the highest office in the land a mere forty years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Has there been too much made of race in this election? Has there been a pandering to and exploitation of ethnicity? Perhaps. But the better question may be this. Will the daughter of a Pakistani girl whose school was destroyed yesterday by Taliban bombs rise to such a level in her country within a mere four decades?

Today we indeed witnessed a peaceful transition of power, and ours is certainly a great democracy. It is time once again to take our leaders at their words until such time as they may prove themselves false. It is time for us to exercise our kratos of the demos, our rule of the people, by involving ourselves in our own economy, yet another word of Greek origin that means literally the governance of one's own household. And it is time that we begin our prayers for God's guidance of those we have chosen to lead.

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