There are some on the right who take defeat badly, but I’m not one of them. I’m not a lurk-in-the-bunker-poison-the-dog-shoot-myself kind of guy. And if you’re still in a position to read this, neither are you. But that still leaves open the question as to how, exactly, we should mark the upcoming inauguration.
Sulking is an option, as is picking a fight with a liberal member of the family, obsessively researching birth-certificate rules in Hawaii, repeatedly watching Red Dawn, or kicking the as-yet-unpoisoned dog. But, with the exception of those repeated viewings of Red Dawn, none of these alternatives is very uplifting, particularly if, as seems likely, the new president’s speech will be that–and more. At the same time, to follow the advice of those good sports over at the Wall Street Journal who suggested opening “a fine bottle of American bubbly” is to go too far down the road to reasonability, respectability, and good-hearted bipartisanship–and that’s just not our thing.
It’s better, I think, to borrow a few ideas from the Orange Alternative (Pomarańczowa Alternatywa). Fearless prankster surrealists of the Polish sort-of-Left from the 1980s, they used to taunt their country’s crumbling Communist regime with cheers, not jeers, their specialty being sporadic displays of unsettlingly enthusiastic loyalty. These included a reenactment of the storming of the Winter Palace and a procession through the streets of Warsaw by 4,000 people chanting their love for Lenin. Now, I would not want to compare Obama with that other community organizer–no, not for a second!–but the cult of personality now surrounding our next president suggests that hosting an Orange Alternative inauguration dinner would be a perfect counterpoint to the pomp, sincerity, and cynicism on display in Washington. It’ll also be an ideal opportunity to treat friends of all political persuasions to a confused, confusing, and almost certainly annoying celebration that can be read, as Obama has said about himself, in any way they like.
The proceedings should start with a sing-along, possibly the Obama Kids’ We’re Gonna Change the World, a song that brought so many people so much pleasure last summer:
We’re gonna spread happiness
We’re gonna spread freedom
Obama’s gonna change it
Obama’s gonna lead ’em.
We’re gonna change it
And rearrange it
We’re gonna change the world.
After hymning themselves hoarse for Change, your guests will need a drink. They will probably have had enough of clichés by then, so forget the champagne and opt instead for some Obama Limited Edition Reserve (“very detailed features of Barack Obama deep carved into the bottle . . . fit for the Smithsonian!”), a 2005 Merlot from Napa Valley. You’ll want to avoid any suggestions of elitism, however, so slip in some suds, too, perhaps some Obama (formerly “Senator”) beer from Kenya. Cocktail drinkers meanwhile may enjoy a Barackatini (rum, fruit, a splash of club soda) and, since nobody will be excluded from the promise of Obama’s America, teetotalers will be able to join in the fun (if teetotalers ever do join in the fun) with Obama Soda from France–which is, apparently, now a friend.
For food, as for bailouts, turn to Washington. The M Street Bar & Grill has designed a
Barack Obama Pizza Burger. If that’s too bland, just add some Barack Obama Inauguration Hot Sauce. For those who fancy something altogether more exotic, blogger and author Veronica Chambers has dreamt up a recipe for a Barack Pie “that would celebrate, in culinary fashion, the hope, promise (and okay, super yummyness) of having Barack Obama as our next president. . . . [It] serves . . . souls hungry for hope, change and a new day in American politics.” And if that’s not sugary enough, Max and Benny’s of Northbrook, Ill., will supply “Yes We Can!” cookies emblazoned with images of the president-elect, his wife, and the odd-looking individual who will be the next vice president. On the other hand, Obama Waffles taste too much of sour grapes to have any place at such a celebratory table–we’ll prefer the sweetness of Ben & Jerry’s “inspirational’ Yes Pecan! On that note, your guests can get at their beer with the help of a “Yes We Can” Opener. For the wine there’s Corkscrew Bill, an engaging device modeled on the husband of the new secretary of state. When preparing the food, the Barack Obama cutting board, as versatile as a Panetta, will undoubtedly come in handy: “Can also be used as a hot plate, serving tray, cheese board, bread board . . . place-mat, or director of the CIA.” (I obviously made up the last of those. Running Langley in wartime is a job for specialists. Who could possibly think otherwise? Oh. Anyhoo . . .) When it comes to chopping, cutting, and slicing our feast’s ingredients, the adventurous will be tempted by President Barack Obama’s White House Sword, forged in the heat of a renaissance fair/faire/fayre, pleasingly suggestive of once and future Camelots, and best kept out of the hands of any members of clan Clinton.
And when it’s time at last to chow down, each of your guests should dine off an Obama Historic Victory Plate (“a priceless work of art featuring the triumphant President-Elect surrounded by the American flag and spectacular fireworks celebration”), and, according to taste, drink from a pewter-accented Obama wine glass or an “Obama Will Save Us” beer stein. Alcoholics will appreciate the opportunity to down some federally subsidized ethanol out of a specially engraved Obama Drinking Flask.
To wrap things up, how about freshly brewed Kona Joe’s (Barack O Blend, naturally) swigged out of a Barack “Change” coffee mug while savoring a cigar (Cuban?) wrapped in a commemorative Obama cigar band? Coffee and cigars? This might also be the moment to hand out a few Obama National AchieveMints. Few’s the word. Boost the mood still further by festooning your house with Obama posters, ideally in the fake, yet electorally effective, socialist-realist style pioneered by Shepard Fairey (in the Smithsonian soon!). Your couch, chairs, and any notably slow-moving guests should be draped with a “Believe” throw from NBC.com.
Wait, there’s more! As the special commemorative clock on the mantelpiece reminds you, “It’s Obama time.” And so it is. Raise a “Yeaaaah! Obama Won! Happy Days are Here Again!” banner. The faintly alarming echoes both of Howard Dean and the (last) Great Depression will probably pass unnoticed. If they don’t, start talking excitedly about Change; that usually does the trick. Meanwhile, Obama balloons and lumi-loons (in red, white, and blue) should be allowed to soar, like hope, hype, and deficits, as high as they can go. And beyond.
It’s not only the house that should be decorated. We will, we are told, be feting the most historic inauguration in the history of history. Formally inclined male guests will want to wear a tie, perhaps one featuring Smithsonian Shepard’s “now iconic portrait of president-elect Barack Obama set in bold reds, whites, and blues.” The more casual of either gender will, perhaps, like the look of a colorful satin Obama jacket. And what woman (apart from the one from Alaska, who doesn’t count) could resist a set of HOPE earrings from www.barackobamajewelry.com (“accessorizing the movement”)?
No child need be left behind: Even the youngest can be part of the Change with an Obama onesie from Irregular Apparel (“We offer politically and socially aware messages on baby clothing that is colorful, inexpensive, covered with sass-filled designing but made without sweatshop labor.”).
Others will want to don a T-shirt. There are more designs from which to pick than there are magically reappearing Al Franken votes in Minnesota. My favorite, featuring Chris Bishop’s portrayal of Obama astride a unicorn, may be cut a little too close to fit: Irony is death to all things Obama. To avoid any open signs of this renegade sensibility ruining your event, I’d recommend punctuating the festivities with a few readings, seder-style, from a devotional book. The Bible might be going too far and the Koran would excite conspiracists (People, please! He’s not a Muslim!) but the hagiographic Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope would do very well. This strikingly illustrated children’s book (and New York Times bestseller) by award-winning poetess Nikki Grimes tells the story of Obama from boyhood to presidential campaign. Celebrants might wish to begin with this passage describing Obama’s time in Indonesia:
He caught crickets, flew kites,
and joyed in the jungle
at the end of his new home–
a perfect paradise, until
the sight of beggars
broke his heart.
Barry started to wonder,
Will I ever be able
to help people like these?
Hope hummed deep inside of him.
With luck, your guests will rejoice in those words, and also in these, recording Barry-now-Barack’s move to Chicago:
Barack’s eyes saw
the hungry and the homeless,
crying out like beggars in Djakarta,
burning a hole in his heart.
When his classes came to an end,
he raced to Chicago
to join hands with the church,
to learn new lessons:
not how to be black or white,
but how to be a healer,
how to change things,
how to make a difference in the world.
And if those later lines conjure up any awkward thoughts of The Reverend Who Must Not Be Named, they can be dispelled by allowing your guests to gaze at some of the book’s illustrations–a weeping Barack at prayer, maybe, or a butterfly settled on the hands of a praying Barack of Assisi. Best of all is a picture showing Obama acknowledging the cheers of the crowd the night he was elected senator. Haloed by what looks like starlight, he’s smiling, his hands extended in a gesture more normally associated with the Mount of Olives.
Did I mention that Kool-Aid will be served?
– Andrew Stuttaford is a contributing editor of National Review Online.