Inauguration illustrates U.S. flaws
January 17, 2005 —
The formal swearing in ceremony of President Bush's second term occurs on Thursday, Jan. 20. While the chasm between American incomes increases, the amount spent on the inaugural ceremonies - $50 million - is outrageously high. The United States has a worldwide image problem when it comes to donating money to charities. In many ways this image is justified; of the world's richest countries, the U.S. spends the least amount of its gross national product, 0.14%, on donations to other countries.
$50 million is a substantial chunk of change, but even though the vast majority of it will come from private financiers, the message sent to others is not positive.
Our government already has a negative reputation to many foreigners, but with Americans giving so generously to such an ostensible display of power, perhaps individual Americans will also become blackballed by much of the world.
This is not simply a partisan attack on the re-election of George Bush. If John Kerry's tepid campaign had resulted in the presidency, a great deal of money would have been spent on his inaugural ceremony, as a way of commemorating the defeat of President Bush.
The majority of Democrats are as committed to the corporate juggernauts that dominate politics as their Republican brethren. I would intead like to illustrate flaws that are present from the spending of such a great amount of money on such a ceremonial event.
Imagine if the inaugural ceremony had the relatively austere price tag of $25 million (President Clinton's second inauguration cost around $30 million), and that President Bush instead told his private donors to donate the rest of their money to charity. This selfless act could have gone a long way to bridge some of the bitter divides that permeate our country.
Perhaps it would have allayed fears much of the world has about George Bush being little more than a gun-toting cowboy. It would also help people forget why the United States' initial aid to tsunami victims was only $15 million, a fraction of what it needed to be.
Instead, the ceremony will be stretched into a three-day party at the nation's capital. Replete with Kid Rock performing a concert hosted by the President's daughters, the inaugural ceremonies are a celebration of excess. And in the wake of current tragedies on the other side of the globe, celebrating excess is the complete opposite of what we should be doing.
Try explaining to the countries ravaged by the recent tsunami why individuals in the U.S. are spending record amounts to celebrate what is little more than a formality while they are in such great need.
Hypocrisies like this are what draw people to radical Islamists, who preach against America's alleged immorality and godless behavior. Indonesia, the nation most ravaged by the tsunami, has the largest number of Muslims in the world (170-180 million). Islamists are already leveraging the tsunami to gain influence in the nation, including setting up their own relief camps in Indonesia's worst hit province, Banda Aceh.
If the inaugural ceremonies of President Bush were cut in half, and the money saved was sent directly to the tsunami victims, there would be much less need for radical Islamists to provide aid, and ostensibly, to convert Indonesians to more militant ways.
Instead, we have a dichotomy of values at the inauguration - an inauguration that allows the religious right to castigate the immoral and godless ways of Americans, yet also has decidedly non-religious musicians like Kid Rock and actors like Kelsey Grammar, who has busted for cocaine possession.