Seekers! Heathens! Darlings of the new constituency! It's inauguration week! You know what that means, right?
That's right: ridiculous, bordering on gratuitous, hell, let's just say it outright: fawning unfettered gaspingly unhinged heaps of unbridled, open-throated gratitude.
That's right, gratitude. For what? For Obama, of course. For the general wonder of another four years of this guy who is tremendously flawed and makes some infuriatingly weak decisions and for some reason refuses to unleash any serious, go-for-the-throat whoop-ass on the GOP, but who nevertheless will go down as the finest and most unfalteringly intelligent president we could have hoped for in this here generation, and maybe the next.
Grateful is exactly the right sentiment, too. Because I think we've forgotten. I think we on the left, despite the heartfelt surge right up to the election itself, we sort of let our attentions wander, let our relentless cynicism and single-issue annoyances get in the way, let all the various reasons Obama failed to live up to his impossible 2008 hype block us from seeing the larger picture at play.
So let's be clear. I don't just mean the easy and the obvious kind of gratitude, like giving thanks for how Obama was the first president in history to mention gay marriage in an inauguration speech, or that he (finally) acknowledged climate change as a deadly serious issue, or that he champions women's rights and immigrant equality like few before him.
It's not even that he's the first president since Roosevelt and his National Firearms Act of 1934 to take on the nation's hissing cult of gun fetishists so directly, the ghosts of 20 massacred schoolchildren at his back (not to mention the more than 1100 others who have been gunned down since Sandy Hook), the pinched, blood-red faces of bloated white guys from the NRA all wishing him dead.
There is another reason. The deeper reason. No less obvious but easily forgotten as we barrel down the tracks of the 21st century like a runaway train hoping to someday crash straight into God.
It's simple gratitude for knowing cooler heads will almost always prevail. It's the deep thanks that can only come from realizing the pilot can land this thing no matter what. It is the profound pleasure in understanding you are in confident and capable hands for four more years, as opposed to clammy and trigger-happy, dishonest and dead like a neoconservative fish.
Is that too simplistic? Too lacking in all the complaints you can so easily list about Obama's various botched issues and congressional battles, his failure to support universal bike lanes or dolphin rights, his ridiculous support of "clean" coal and drone warfare? I don't think it is. I don't think the wide view is the slightest bit useless. In fact, it's downright essential. Complain all you want that the water is murky and the temperature's uncertain; at least we're in the right pool.
Put it this way: How many times have you, have I, have we all collectively said, felt, or muttered under our breath, maybe at dinner, maybe sitting next to conservative or hyper-Christian family members over the holidays -- oh dear God, can you imagine if McCain were president right now? What a disaster? How many snarling reactions, how raging the warmongering, how sour and dank the complexion of the nation?
Perhaps you said: "McCain would never have ended Bush's failed Iraq war, on time and under budget. McCain would never have invested $150 billion over 10 years in alterative energy, reformed Wall Street (a little), pushed major health care reform, championed gay marriage, nailed Osama bin Laden, defended Planned Parenthood, reformed student loan programs, so on and etcetera." The list is long, and also sort of amazing.
It's an odd fact of our cynical modern context: Obama has been one of the most productive and successful first-term presidents in history. But it goes largely unnoticed, overshadowed by relentless economic gloom and an acidic GOP filled such hatred for the president they'd rather the nation -- their own constituents included -- get cancer than Obama succeed. Don't believe it? You haven't been paying attention.
But now, the good news: This same sentiment will only gain strength and power all the way through 2016. You will, I predict (and fully encourage) see this or that headline related to war, or Wall Street, or abortion rights, or foreign policy, or immigration, or the equality of women, or NRA lizards, and you will drop to your knees and offer thanks to whichever deity you choose that Mitt Romney isn't winking at Boehner as he gives the nation that numb, blank-faced look, as Ann Romney gallops up onto the White House lawn on one of her million-dollar show horses to discuss the the dire lack of quality stemware in the Hamptons. Or whatever.
What do you think? Do you think you will say such a thing a hundred times? A thousand? Hell, I said it at least two dozen times during the vast, sprawling, sort of boring inauguration speech alone.
Boring! What? See how easily that slipped out? Hard to believe, but we're now at a point where Obama's articulation and facile intelligence are becoming sort of yawningly common. We are hereby spoiled rotten. We do not know how good we have it. Do you remember Bush's speeches? I don't either. Blocked out entirely. Sort of like blocking out rampant childhood sexual abuse. By a midget clown.
Make no mistake. Despite the overdue tone of aggression and fresh fight Obama poured into that inauguration speech, large doses of hard realism and heavy sighing will still be required, going forward.
For example: Do Obama's more serious gun control measures have a chance in the weak-kneed Senate and Repub-smeared House? Probably not. But it (almost) doesn't matter. In the wake of the Newtown massacre, Obama stepped up, delivered a number of serious changes to our ridiculous gun laws that the vast majority of the nation demanded. The president did exactly the right and promised thing in the face of nasty and impossible resistance. The GOP sneers at the idea? Congress hasn't the nerve to pass his initiatives? Write your whiny, isolationist congressman. Mostly in the South.
Which leads us straight to perhaps the largest gratitude offering of all....
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Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate. He's also a well-known E-RYT yoga instructor in San Francisco. Join him on Facebook, or email him. Not to mention...