Barack Obama has made it clear that problems developed over eight years or more won’t be solved overnight and that the restoration of our economy and our place in the world will take years. It is, of course, reassuring to have a President who’s in touch with reality, who presumably won’t jump the gun or go off half-cocked, and therefore, not having acted in haste, won't have to repent at leisure, who will remember to look before he leaps and won’t forget that haste makes waste or that Rome wasn’t built in a day. And yet . . .
One recent morning, as I sat on our west-facing porch, sipping coffee from a (rapidly cooling) mug, I watched flocks of songbirds wheeling in a cold south wind. The birds — House Finches or Pine Siskins I thought — rose and fell, spread and gathered, ran north with the wind, then turned and ran south against it. Once, northbound and southbound flocks met head-on, passing through each other like marching bands in an elaborate halftime show.
The northbound flock broke up slightly, then reformed and swung south behind the other birds. Beyond our long, gravel driveway, above the field in which we used to cut hay, they merged into a single big flock as they swooped south into the wind. They wouldn’t stay together long, I knew, but they were still a single flock when they swept beyond my line of vision.
Watching them, I thought about Obama and the historic Presidential election of 2008: Politically, a number of flocks in their separate trajectories came together to elect the nation’s first black president, the first president not old enough to have served (or avoided serving) in Vietnam, to reject the policies of incompetent Bush ideologues (or ideological Bush incompetents), and to set the nation (many of us hope) on a new course. This great coming together in the teeth of a strong wind is both historic and fleeting. Like the birds, we won’t stick together very long. The coalescing of interests and viewpoints won’t last.
George Bush had a moment like this right after 9/11. Famously — or infamously — he let it pass. Let’s hope that Obama seizes this moment and does a few really important things while so many of us are still moving in the same direction. He probably won’t get another chance.
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