Poverty groups and Christians attack Bush inaugural vision
As 50,000 people braved Capitol Hillís freezing conditions to laud George W. Bush at his inauguration as President for a second four-year term yesterday, poverty campaigners, representatives of the black and Hispanic communities and Christians working for social justice demonstrated on behalf of the people his first administration has frozen out.
In the tightest security operation in living memory, small groups of protestors on the fringes of the largely Republican celebrations were rapidly moved on. They included church people from Washington DCís southeast side, where poverty and despair existing a short pitch from the centre of US power highlights the nation's bitter division between rich and poor.
In these tough urban neighbourhoods the vote against Bush in Novemberís election was 9:1. An observer told Ekklesia that the US East Coast virtually boycotted the inauguration ceremony, evidenced by the fact that Democrat contender John Kerry, who won the popular vote in this region, was roundly booed on his arrival at the ceremony by the partisan audience ñ to the evident embarrassment of those sitting in the VIP section.
Meanwhile, in an address replete with biblical allusions to please the religious right that had helped secure him a second term, George W. Bush relished his re-election. He promised to export Americaís version of freedom and democracy across the world, to fight terrorism and to bring peace and stability to the Middle East.
British PM and ally Tony Blair was quick to assure commentators last night that President Bushís second term was likely to be more consensual than his first, given that the record turnout in his favour was almost matched by a record turnout against him in November's election.
But others were not so sure. Poverty campaigners from Washington DC, where people still rely on soup kitchens in the shadow of the White House, said they felt powerless in the face of what one angrily called ìa tax-cutting, planet wrecking, poverty creating and bomb spendingî agenda from the richest nation on earth.
Two days before the inauguration Sojourners magazine editor and radical Christian spokesperson Jim Wallis officially launched his new, best-selling book, "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It".
Wallis, who more than a decade ago was voted one of Americaís most influential young leaders by Time magazine, said that the book aimed at galvanising ìa comprehensive alternative to the agenda of the religious right.î
Wallis's roots are in the evangelical community. He has been an outspoken critic of the Bush administration and its policy in Iraq. But he has also attacked the Democrats and self-styled US progressives for ignoring religious values at their peril and allowing the right to run away with the large Christian vote.
The Bush inauguration ceremony preparations were mired in a further minor controversy earlier this week, when it was alleged that among the symbols and objects banned on Capitol Hill by security chiefs was the carrying of crosses.
A civil rights spokesperson from DCís poor neighbourhoods declared: ìWe may not be allowed to display them, but our fear is that we will be made to carry them more and more under Bush.î