As we watched the ceremony take shape, I felt that here, finally, was aunifying moment after a divisive campaign--all the eyes in the nationwere turned in the same direction, sharing in the patriotic pomp andcircumstance surrounding the transition from one president to another.When Franklin Graham began to recite the invocation, I was a bitdiscomfited by the fervency of his prayer--by the fact that it focusedas much on the "majesty" and "splendor" of God as it did on the state ofthe nation and the future of its people. I tried not to read too muchinto it, assuming that the prayer was just another piece of a ceremonydeeply rooted in history. But when Graham came to the closingof his prayer, my unease turned to outrage. "We pray this in the nameof the Father, and of the son, The Lord Jesus Christ, and of the HolySpirit, Amen," he said. Brandon turned to me and asked, "Aren't any ofthose people Jewish?"
On the day before the inauguration, Graham promised that his inauguralprayer would be "for unity." But even my eight-year-old son feltexcluded by Graham's invocation. Despite all Bush's rhetoric aboutunifying a nation divided, he left out large segments of the country'spopulation by allowing Graham to recite that particular prayer. I assured both Brandon and Sara that if Liebermanhad been up there, the prayer would have been different. Perhaps theremay even have been a rabbi standing alongside the reverend.
I was somewhat relieved to hear that clergy from different faithsjoined Graham in offering prayers at the Washington Cathedral servicethat Bush attended the morning following the inauguration. Still, thatdidn't assuage my anger over Bush's lack of sensitivity at the inauguralceremony, when most of the nation (and many of its children) werelistening to what he--and Graham--had to say.
Ever since my kids were young, I have made a sincere effort to ensure thatthey don't feel left out because of their heritage.
Fortunately, schools are increasingly sensitive about being inclusive: Thanks to a more well-rounded curriculum, my kids now know about Kwanzaaand Ramadan too. And it's not just schools: The publishing andentertainment industries, the news media, and other businesses are alldemonstrating a heightened sensitivity to the varied backgrounds ofthose they cater to. Certainly, government officials, who are supposedto represent this increasingly diverse population, should not losesight of the fact that we are a pluralistic society. Which is perhapswhy I find Bush's lack of sensitivity so surprising and worrisome.
As we watched the official beginning of Bush's presidency, I tried toget my children excited about the fact that they were witnessing"history"--but as soon as Reverend Graham started referring to Jesusas "our Lord, our Savior and our Redeemer" I regretted having capturedtheir attention. It was clear to my kids (and to me) that the "our"Graham was referring to did not include us. I only hope that thisinauspicious beginning to Bush's reign is not an indication of things tocome--that all Bush's talk about bringing the country together is notmere rhetoric. I have watched with trepidation as, even in the weekssince the inauguration, Bush has continued to blur the line betweenreligion and politics. And I wonder if my efforts to make my childrenfeel included will not be negated by the man elected to represent all of us. I want my children to feel that their president represents them, too.