Of all the messages sent by our inauguration, the loudest and most important is this:
THIS IS DEMOCRACY
When the Iraqis had their vote, many in the US jumped the gun and celebrated the embrace of democracy in Iraq. After all, they had voted hadn't they? This misses an important point. Democracy is not about voting. After all, the Soviets had votes, and they did in Pakistan, Russia, and Canada. Yet they did not have democracy as we have it in those places, because they lacked the essential element: recognition by the losers of the authority of the winners vis-a-vis the vote. Everyone likes the idea of a vote when they think they are going to win. It is the peaceful stepping aside when you lose that marks the embrace of democratic principles.
This year it was the Republicans' turn, and with the exception of a small bunch of nitwits grasping at any straw to deny the n..., black man the position of president (the Birthers, those that think ACORN is guilty of a huge fraudulent vote, etc.), they have done their duty. Just watch the irritated expression on George W. Bushes face while Obama was speaking to see great adherence to democracy. He hated every minute of it, wanting as he did to have someone win that would praise him, rather than give him a gentle, but clear, rhetorical kick in the ass out the door as Obama did. Yet there W sat, as every other ex president sat, respecting the fact that the people had spoken, and he was no longer president.
So take a good look world. This is what is greatest about America. Let's hope this new administration will lead us to embrace other virtues of America that have been lacking of late: personal responsibility, the presumption of innocence, the right to trial and counsel for all, honesty and transparency of government, knowledgeable, efficient, and respectful use of military force, respect for science, recognition that all citizens (be they gay or president) are equal before the law, the discipline of separating church and state, and the recognition that it is much too large and complex a world to think we can accomplish much unilaterally.