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>Reflections on the inauguration

>I am recovering from standing on the Mall yesterday to see Obama sworn in. I was near the Monument where there was still plenty of space but far away enough so nobody felt the need to offer polite applause for George W Bush. As we tried to get out of the area after the swearing-in, a girl climbed on top of the Portakabins to shout out the crowd situation in the surrounding area, to those trying to get out. She even started an Obama chant…a snapshot of the mood the new president has helped to lift.

Some are cynical about whether Obama will change anything within and in the name of the Imperialist Capitalist power he now leads. Being realistic and balanced is right. But being pessimistic without reason undermines the mandate with which he was elected. People only relinquish hope when they have been let down so many times. But some hold onto it in the very same circumstances. Obama seems to have collected many pilgrims but it is about what he represents, not him. If people lose sight of that, change cannot happen.

Obama talked about the failure of America to make hard choices. Now is the time for Americans – but also those who believe in what he represents – to make those hard choices. It was a concern for me standing in the throng on inauguration day to hear the lines of Obama’s speech that received the greatest applause from those around me on the Mall.

When he said: “We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.” This aggressive, defensive statement received far more cheers than some of his other more beautiful lines about a mature way of approaching potential conflicts, like: “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

I wonder how ready Americans – or just people – are to take the mature approach in their own lives. “We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things,” said Obama. Let’s hope this is not a false dawn in what could be the beginning of America’s coming of age.

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About Herpreet Kaur Grewal

Herpreet Kaur Grewal is a newspaper-trained journalist, editor and commentator. She formerly wrote and edited a section for the social policy and politics magazine Regeneration & Renewal. She has worked for The Times of London and her articles have featured in The Guardian, The Observer and The Daily Express. She specialises in social deprivation issues, gender, human rights , arts and culture.

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Herpreet Kaur Grewal is an editor and journalist currently based in London.

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