What has the New Year brought to the world?Since the beginning of 2005, the Middle East has been facing chronic unrest. The potential for a legitimate Iraqi election by the end of the month is declining. Furthermore, the death toll of American soldiers in Iraq is nearing 1,500, and the civilian body count has surpassed 15,000. The recent tsunami in East Asia has taken almost 160,000 lives, and malaria threatens to take 100,000 more. And how is America reacting?
We’re not technically celebrating the world’s recent crises and turbulences. But today, our country will press pause on the world’s plights and focus instead on the victory of 52 percent of the American people. How? By designating a projected $40 million toward a day of parades, parties, and fireworks in honor of President George W. Bush’s inauguration.
Perhaps I’m being unreasonable. You might wonder how I could ask Bush, a wartime president who has led the nation through doubt and disaster, to cancel, or even to downscale, his inauguration festivities simply because the rest of the world has a paper cut. I mean, that would be downright selfish of the rest of the world (and not to mention, of me). It’s an inauguration. It’s not an egocentric ritual created by the GOP, practiced at the expense of the taxpayers for no altruistic benefit. On the contrary, it provides morale. It shows us that even though the world might be suffering, America has persevered and can afford to stand strong.
Actually, if morale costs $40 million worth of kegs and party favors, I’m not quite sure now is the time for confidence.
If we’re asking Bush to follow suit, perhaps we should question his generosity to Washington on Inauguration Day. The celebration will cost the District of Columbia $17.3 million, most of which will go toward security. Well, sure, when all of America’s political brokers are in the same city for a day, security is of the highest priority. In the past, the administration being installed would reimburse the city for this fee. However, the Bush administration told the city to find the $11.9 million not covered by special events funds elsewhere. And where would that be? From the homeland security budget.
Sure, it’s homeland security, but isn’t that a little unfair? I mean, the 2001 inauguration cost $8 million, an amount which dims in comparison to this year’s festivities. But hey… it’s a time of celebration.
Speaking of precedent, I don’t think Bush would be alone in his dignity if he were to cancel or trim his inaugural celebrations. In 1917, in the midst of the first World War, President Woodrow Wilson canceled all inaugural parties. Also, in 1945, President Franklin Roosevelt canceled his festivities, deeming it indecent to throw galas while our soldiers were dying overseas.
Sure, it’s a lot to live up to. These men remain examples of America’s strongest presidents. However, it isn’t Bush’s dissenters who think he will rise to the occasion. It isn’t the opposition that expects the best of him (they’ve learned not to expect a lot, I guess). No, it’s up to Bush’s supporters to encourage him to do the right thing. To downsize his celebrations to a respectable, deferent volume. To show the world, at a time of American isolationism, that we care enough about the world’s crises to practice modesty in our observance of a returning presidential administration.
Or at least to get a designated driver.
Mallory Bolduc is a sophomore political science major from Arlington.