Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Herman Melville, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer and Barack Obama

1. Barack Obama’s description of the U.S. is eerily similar to that of Herman Melville's description of the crew of the Pequod in Moby Dick:

“We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace."

But unlike Captain Ahab, Barack Obama is not an insane Nantucket Quaker dying from leg stump gangrene near the Marquesas Islands in 1837.*

2. Barack Obama quotes from the folk song "Pick Myself Up" by Jerome Kerns and Dorothy Fields, re-written and re-imagined by Peter Tosh.

"Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America."

3. In Obama's benediction, the Rev. Lowery quotes from the scripture which forms the song "Fig Tree" by Neville Livingston, ie. Bunny Wailer, ie. 1/3 of the Wailers:

"When every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid; when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream."

So there's a Herman Melville and two thirds of the Wailers in one Inaugural Afternoon.

Can I get a Wow?

Full speech text.

* Jennifer at Sadly No! has informed me that Moby Dick is Barack Obama's favorite book. Who knew?

Sununu !!!


Anonymous said...


Peter Tosh:

Muthu Pearl said...

nice quote of Herman Melville . Thanks for sharing this with us.