January 18, 2009

Thought for inauguration

The Last Token

Let not Barack Obama
be just another token,
pointed to as proof —
sign of one race's victory
or another's tolerance.

Let not this new beginning
be conceived of as an end,
as something we've accomplished;
for we still have far,
so very far, to go.

Rather let this be
a true inauguration,
a new beginning.

Let him not be
just one more sign or symbol,
but an efficacious sacramental presence;
real flesh and blood,
present and vocal:
to call us all
to sweat and tears,
to set our hands to work
to do the many tasks
that lie before us.

Let this be
the end of tokens,
signs and symbols of deceptive promise;
let this be
the inauguration,
not the benediction,
of our hopes.

Let this be
in form and substance
active and alive;
not contented evening,
but the hopeful dawn.

Tobias Haller BSG


aitchellsee said...

Let the people say Amen!

FranIAm said...

Oh Tobias - this is really wonderful. I think I may post it, with all due credit of course.

You are a light my friend, you really are.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

For all your thoughts for two years, but especially for this poem. Thanks and God bless you. Lan

Sebastian said...

I found Bishop Robinson's prayer too bland. Your poetic prayer hits the mark so well. I too will post a link to it.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Oh my! This one took my breath away, Tobias. I believe that I must use it too.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Amen, dear Tobias!

Doorman-Priest said...

Amen from me too. What more is to be said?

Belinda said...

Nice poem...Too bad it is wasted on a fraud.

Seriously, this guy is not the messiah come again. His rhetoric is dogmatic and is all too reminiscent of the many Socialists who have come before him around the world.

People really need to step back and remember that we are not to worship any man save Jesus.

I admire the hope you espouse, Tobias, but I think you are going to be sadly let down.

Tobias Haller said...

Wow, Belinda. Talk about dogmatic. Take a look in the mirror.

Yes, we are not to worship any man; and as far as I know no one worships our President. I don't think anyone thinks he is the Messiah, either, even if they have high hopes. With folks like you around, realizing those hopes will be hard. You have already judged him to be a fraud before he's finished his first day in office.

And Jesus was a socialist -- at least when it came to spreading the wealth and paying taxes.

Belinda said...


Have you witnessed the screaming, adoring fans of this man? If you ask them simple questions regarding his past and where he wants to lead the country they can't give a coherent answer, in general.

You know, Ronald Reagan came into office under economic circumstances that were grimmer than the current administration, and you know what he said at his inauguration? He said, "During this crisis we must not look to government as a solution, but recognize it as the problem." He went on the deliver the longest post-WWII expansion in history.

My education is in economics, and based on what I have spent years studying, his economic plan does brand him as a fraud. He promises prosperity that government cannot deliver. Socialism has failed everywhere, and every time, it has been tried (including the modern European version), and I don't think that instructing people to pay their taxes makes Jesus a Socialist. He may have told us to pay the government, but He certainly did not look to the government to provide him with every earthly need.

I hope you know that I think very highly of you, Tobias, and I do think your poem is nice and hopeful. I guess I am just weary of listening to people rhapsodize about this man when he has yet to accomplish anything.

Tobias Haller said...

Belinda, I do not agree with your assessments of socialism's relative successes or failures. As you know, "socialism" is a very broad term, and the degrees of its success (and failure) are far more nuanced than you suggest.

I also don't buy your view of Reagan or the situation he faced, and what he did about it. To suggest that the situation at his entry into office was worse than the present seems to me to be a very inaccurate picture of history; nor do I think Reagan "delivered" what happened on his watch.

I believe in government playing a major role in many aspects of social life: that's socialism in its purest forms. Obviously Jesus was not a socialist in the strict sense. But had he been alive in the 1930s he would have been a New Dealer. He most emphatically believed in the redistribution of wealth -- which is really what Obama has talked about, rather than government control of the means of production!

I think the deregulation we saw under Reagan (and again under Bush and in part under Clinton) was a disaster in the making, and we are now seeing some of the results. I do not see the government as the source of "every earthly need" but think it best involved in providing common resources such as energy, travel, and health care. I look forward to the day we finally have a national health care plan.

But more importantly, in this present instance I am willing to see what our new government can accomplish, and have not prejudged that it is doomed (or will succeed) on the basis of ideology.

However, this has strayed very far from the intent and content of my original post, and I am really not interested in debating economic theory. Let's see what the first 100 days bring.

Belinda said...

Oh, come on Tobias! Debating economic theory is one of my favorite past times :)

Alrighty then, we shall see what the first 100 days brings. Just one correction...I have not prejudged Obama, but rather have judged based on his rhetoric regarding what he is going to try to do. That seems a reasonable thing to do, as I am taking him at his word.

I hope you are well!


Tobias Haller said...

I am well, though busy with a number of projects and regular parish work.

My issue with your statement is that, as you say, you have "judged" Obama not on the basis of what he has done, but on the basis of what you believe he has said -- which you believe it impossible to fulfill.

On the contrary, I think Obama has been judicious and clear in saying that it "isn't about him" but about "us." That he is not to be looked to as the "magic Negro" who will solve all of our problems. His refusal to be pegged as Messiah has been a consistent element of his public speeches. If anything, as I said in a sermon shortly after the election, he has modeled his language on the language of the prophets, most especially John the Baptist.

It is certainly true that many people have not heard this clearly; many have likely pinned unreasonable hopes upon him. But he has been, to my mind, eloquently clear that any future success in the plan he proposes will depend entirely upon the people of this nation. If his promise fails, it will be because we have failed.

Ultimately, the failure of any economic system has less to do with the system than with the common human failings of greed and mendacity. The Soviet system did not collapse because of inherent weaknesses in socialism, but because of the greed of oligarchs and the corruption of government -- and the crippling cost of the Cold War. Capitalism is not collapsing around us because of any inherent difficulty with private property, but because of greed and speculation, and too heavy a reliance on usury. The problem with any human system is that it involves humans!

So let's give Obama a chance, and remember that this will mean participating in an exercise in "other-interest" -- which is the message of Christ. This was the theme of my prayer.

I hope you are well, too. God bless you.

Russ Manley said...

Wow. Great poem, Tobias. I'd love to quote it on my blog, if I may?

Tobias Haller said...

Thanks, Russ. Feel free to quote. --Tobias