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January 19, 2009

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Obama can lead the nation but he can't unring the bell of almost complete suburbanization. We're stuck in place as a nation and will demand politicians cater not only to the physical reality of our living arrangements but also its indefinite continuation.

If we're simultaneously soft and barbaric, religious yet narcissistic, the president can appeal to our better angels for only so long. At some point, the hortatory flourishes will simply waft against the carapace of a population at war with nature and a sustainable future.

Tomorrow may, indeed, usher in something new. But whether it's a wrenching but necessary transition or a feeble effort to manage the damage remains to be seen. Are people willing to change what most regard as a birthright? The free-spending, happy-motoring consumers may decide that change is just too hard. They'll eventually demand what they really want: more of the same.

This is the paradox of change. Obama must make us want the change that leaves us less comfortable and secure for an untold amount of time. If Obama now seems unwilling to challenge conventional wisdom, it's probably because he knows us all-too well. He can ride the wave of angst and discontent but he can't command the tide to ebb. It's independent of him, and ultimately, our best intentions.

Beautiful prose, Mr. Talton. You write as if one inspired.

"Just to have a president who can speak well and intelligently, who reads books and newspapers, who seems to have an interior life, calm center and an open mind, who's smart, who won't embarrass us in the world."

Oh good god yes. I was watching Obama give his inaugural talk, and there's Prez Bush in the background, squinting and frowning, when (nearly) everyone else in the stands was smiling and nodding. I was wondering, was Bush thinking "damn, I could NEVER give that kind of a talk. SOB is makin' me look bad."

During the inaugural parade, I was flipping around, found that Faux News (I know, why go there) was covering Prez Bush's arrival in Dallas and a speech by Bush on his accomplishments. I thought, good lord, you can't even give Obama this one day, can you? I really, really, will not miss listening to Bush's insane mutterings.

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