Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Today is a very good day

I’m not much of a history buff.

I can’t rattle off chapter and verse on the cause and effect as it pertains to events in the past and be able to follow my own (or anyone else's) line of thought. Maybe when I was in school, and the teachers were grading me on it, I could delve into the black hole that is my mind and extract "1492" and pair it up with some silly Italian explorer who got lost as he was looking to spice up his life.

But by the time summer vacation rolled around the dates got all jumbled up with the pictures. ... And I never did really trust the stories.

For instance … When we learned about Martin Van Buren -- the follically-challenged 8th president of the United States who hailed from nearby Kinderhook – I burned into my memory the fact that he had red hair; that he was small in stature; that he was of Dutch decent but the first American-born citizen to hold the office; that he was a one-termer, probably a result of an economic depression that gripped the country in the year he was elected; and that the biggest controversy surrounding his name was whether or not he coined the colloquialism, "O.K." (as in Old Kinderhook), as part of some brilliant political promotion that helped him pack his bags and head to Washington.

I expect more comparative histories to be written about “The Little Magician” -- as he was called back in the day -- as Barack Obama’s presidency progresses since the former presided over a similar boom/bust economic era as this country is experiencing today. Of course the hope would be that the 44th president is compared more favorably than the 8th president, who, at the end of his tenure, was known to readers of the press as “Martin Van Ruin.”

But I digress.

This was supposed to be about the stuff about Martin Van Buren that I hadn't realized.

Such as the hostile policies he and Andrew Jackson created toward Native Americans when they began removing and relocating them to areas West of the Mississippi River. Funny how I learned about the Trail of Tears and its horrificness, and yet somehow divorced the policies that caused it from any real human and married it instead to the nameless-faceless federal government in power during our westward expansion. When in fact, it was aided and abetted by a man from the place I now call home.

I have more hope for Mr. Obama. I have hope that his presidency WILL be remembered with more past-gazing into the likes of Abraham Lincoln than into our man, Van Buren. Like I said, I have hope.

But I also have caution. I know history isn't really in the now of today, but in looking back from the hindsight of many tomorrows. I know this man we put into office doesn’t walk on water. He will struggle. He will be tested. Sometimes he will pass, but not always. And yet, as I prepare to accept his mere mortalness I am also prepared to be awed his miraculousness. I am also prepared to marvel in our own miraculousness as a nation. It's not all on his shoulders, after all.


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