I watched Obama’s inauguration speech being replayed last night after getting home from class and there was a sentence I couldn’t help but notice and feel good about:
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus—and non-believers.
Granted it’s just words, but it’s nice to be acknowledged as an American after so many years of Presidents either not mentioning us at all or saying things like the first President Bush in 1987 when he was still a Vice President:
No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God.
It’s a small gesture, but it’s still nice to be included rather than excluded. It’s good to know that my President won’t dismiss what I have to say simply because we disagree on the existence of God(s). Most of all it’s nice to not be vilified for a change.
It seems I’m not the only one who noticed:
Using inclusive language about religion is pretty much ritual now. If you’re a politician giving a speech and you’re going to cite one faith, you have to cite many—i.e., not just Christians, but Jews, Muslims, and Hindus as well. And that’s a good thing.
But if the standards of polite political discourse now require accepting people who pray to god in different ways, it doesn’t require recognizing those who choose not to pray at all. At least not yet. That made this line in Obama’s address significant: For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus—and non-believers.
Perhaps this is another barrier, albeit a rhetorical one, that Obama intends to tear down over the next few years.
It certainly gives me reason to hope. Something Obama seems to be pretty good at.