As we watched the ceremony take shape, I felt that here, finally, was a unifying moment after a divisive campaign--all the eyes in the nation were turned in the same direction, sharing in the patriotic pomp and circumstance surrounding the transition from one president to another. When Franklin Graham began to recite the invocation, I was a bit discomfited by the fervency of his prayer--by the fact that it focused as much on the "majesty" and "splendor" of God as it did on the state of the nation and the future of its people. I tried not to read too much into it, assuming that the prayer was just another piece of a ceremony deeply rooted in history. But when Graham came to the closing of his prayer, my unease turned to outrage. "We pray this in the name of the Father, and of the son, The Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen," he said. Brandon turned to me and asked, "Aren't any of those people Jewish?"
On the day before the inauguration, Graham promised that his inaugural prayer would be "for unity." But even my eight-year-old son felt excluded by Graham's invocation. Despite all Bush's rhetoric about unifying a nation divided, he left out large segments of the country's population by allowing Graham to recite that particular prayer. I assured both Brandon and Sara that if Lieberman had been up there, the prayer would have been different. Perhaps there may even have been a rabbi standing alongside the reverend.
I was somewhat relieved to hear that clergy from different faiths joined Graham in offering prayers at the Washington Cathedral service that Bush attended the morning following the inauguration. Still, that didn't assuage my anger over Bush's lack of sensitivity at the inaugural ceremony, when most of the nation (and many of its children) were listening to what he--and Graham--had to say.
Ever since my kids were young, I have made a sincere effort to ensure that they don't feel left out because of their heritage.
"history"--but as soon as Reverend Graham started referring to Jesus
as "our Lord, our Savior and our Redeemer" I regretted having captured
their 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 this
inauspicious beginning to Bush's reign is not an indication of things to
come--that all Bush's talk about bringing the country together is not
mere rhetoric. I have watched with trepidation as, even in the weeks
since the inauguration, Bush has continued to blur the line between
religion and politics. And I wonder if my efforts to make my children
feel 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.
Fortunately, schools are increasingly sensitive about being inclusive: Thanks to a more well-rounded curriculum, my kids now know about Kwanzaa and Ramadan too. And it's not just schools: The publishing and entertainment industries, the news media, and other businesses are all demonstrating a heightened sensitivity to the varied backgrounds of those they cater to. Certainly, government officials, who are supposed to represent this increasingly diverse population, should not lose sight of the fact that we are a pluralistic society. Which is perhaps why I find Bush's lack of sensitivity so surprising and worrisome.
As we watched the official beginning of Bush's presidency, I tried to get my children excited about the fact that they were witnessing