On this the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, just 70 years after the atom was split for the first time, I'm struck by how nice it is to finally have a president who actually does strive to unite the country.
Yes, as a progressive, I expect to be frustrated by Obama's center-right tilt on so many issues. But if there's one thing that he seems destined to do is unite the country in ways we haven't seen for a long time.
Hence the symbolism of beginning a chase for the office in Lincoln's home town of Springfield, IL.
And hence the canned, albeit catchy claim that "there are no red states or blue states," just the United States.
Of course, every new president who comes in on a wave of popular support can be expected to transcend partisan divisions for a while. And all the "We are One" pageantry struck me a a little cautious and calculated. Yet there's more to it than that.
It came to me not while I was standing on the Mall, "experiencing the Love" as my old friend Meg would put it, but rather under more mundane circumstances -- while watching the recent Frontline special biopic about Obama. It was watching that when Heraclites' maxim, "character is destiny," surfaced once again.
It's worth watching, because if the skeptics are right that Obama has little political experience that prepares him for the duties ahead, it is also true that he has an impressive history of skillfully uniting people in very divisive situations. And that skill comes from deeper within.
At an early age Obama had to wage an internal struggle to grasp his own personal identity out of a mixed racial and cultural heritage. That struggle not only forced him to mature quickly, but pressed upon him the urgency of trying to heal the great divides that confronted him as he entered public life.
(The example of how this was true that Frontline presented was his tenure as the editor in chief of the Harvard Law Review. At a time of deep division over questions such as affirmative action, he managed to bring the Federalist Society types -- then a political minority -- together with the more liberal members of the review.).
In short, it is quite a "blessing" that, after years of brazen class warfare and the fundamentalists' declared clash of civilization that we have a leader whose character was forged out of such deep conviction. So I must say, he has the potential to be the greatest uniter since his hero, Abe Lincoln.
The well over a million people (the biggest crowd in Washington, DC history) who braved the chill to witness his inauguration the other day are an obvious testament to that.