2 + 2 = 4

“Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two equals four. If that is granted, all else follows.” -Winston Smith in George Orwell’s 1984

I didn’t watch the inauguration. I found I wasn’t interested in the hype. I have been very supportive of our new president – particularly since his speech on race relations last March – but unlike many others, I don’t find myself swept up in the dreaminess. I find I don’t trust adoration in the political sphere – it can lead even very good people to some very bad places.

Today my brother mentioned to me the above quote from Orwell’s “1984”, and it helped me to realize that I have been holding my breath all this time, waiting to see what Obama would do the day after he took office, when it came down not to making the lovely eloquent speeches about the future, but to making the day-to-day decisions of a chief executive.

I am heartened not just that he has moved immediately to order the closing of the prison at Guantanamo, but that he is going about it in a careful and gradual way – over the course of a year – so that there will be time to find where the truth lies in that mess of a situation.

And I realize that my difference in expectations before and after January 20 comes down to what Winston Smith said so eloquently in “1984”. There came a point, after having been disappointed too many times, when I simply stopped expecting straight talk from the Bush Administration.

Obama still holds open the possibility – so delicious to contemplate after having been denied by our leaders these past years – that he might not lead through deceit and misdirection – that he might actually level with us, as equal and thoughtful participants in a republic.

It’s so simple and so fundamental, this freedom we had lost, that may now have been restored: The freedom to have our intelligence respected.

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