Inauguration confusion

Georgie Anne Geyer

January 15, 1993|By Georgie Anne Geyer

THE inauguration of an American president is supposed to be a solemn affair, a glorious affair. It is also supposed to be an affirming moment for the nation, a defining time for our perception of ourselves as a people.

Then why, in the joyousness of this coming week, do I feel confused? Why do I feel that, far from knowing more than I usually do, I seem to be knowing even less?

There is this curious business of everyone being instructed to ring bells to mark the moment of President-elect Bill Clinton's assumption of power -- as if this were not the inauguration of a democratic American president but the resurrection of the Christ child!

What if I don't feel like ringing bells? What if the churches don't? And what are all the dogs and cats of the country, those who wear bells around their little necks, supposed to do? Shake their furry little selves, in time with the Elvis impersonators who are being put in the inauguration parade in the place of the grand old Culver Academy marching band?

There is surely no easy answer to those profound questions of governance.

It's bewildering, too, how a smart man like the president-elect -- a man who made such intellectual and economic sense during his campaign -- allowed the first three issues put forward before the inauguration to be such divisive ones. I speak of gays in the military, abortion rights and Haitian refugees. These were questions that should have been put off into some indefinite and hazy future.

But then, perhaps, as I get older, I am simply becoming a scold or a woman who just doesn't like people screaming eternally about gays in the military and "diversity." And speaking of oh-so-fashionable diversity, there is one other thing I can't figure out:

Why exactly is it considered good and moral to pick people to fill the highest positions in the new government of the United States of America primarily according to their ethnic, gender or racial characteristics?

You say to represent their groups? Surely again I am confused, but I always thought that group-defining and group-placing was what we were trying to get away from in this country, where we rightly and nobly spent our blood and treasure to fight prejudice against any groups in our great civil rights fights. I guess I didn't realize that apparently it is the other way around -- that people really do have something in their chromosomes, blood and skin color that makes them alone capable of representing a certain defined group.

And one final point. In this world where the threat of the American use of force is swiftly becoming the only thing that separates us from savagery, I can't figure out how the ideas of our new secretary of state, Warren Christopher, are going to mesh with the era that faces him.

Corporate lawyer Christopher, remember, was the acolyte of Carter Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, who is very busy these days giving Bosnia to the Serbs. Good luck, Secretary Christopher -- I am sure you are going to find it interesting "negotiating" with the Slobodan Milosevics of the world.

But, despite all these things that I don't know, I wish them well. The great tableau of American history moves on.

Georgie Anne Geyer is a syndicated columnist.

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