Tuesday, January 20, 2009

This is what history looks like

Someday I'll be able to tell my children about this day. About how excited I was, about how excited we all were, all the millions of us freezing in the mall, or gathered together in rooms around the country. The world, I will say, was going to hell. Later that day, the Dow Jones would close below 8,000 points. But for a brief half-hour, all Americans were focused and united on a new leader who had a plan and a vision for a new America, a peaceful America that used its strength to lead instead of bully. President Obama didn't make any sweeping promises about a shiny golden age, but instead asked us all to sacrifice to work together again to make this plan come true. We were built on hard work, I will tell them, and we were not afraid to get to work again.

So go do your homework and quit bitching.

As expected, the inauguration ceremony was quite moving. About ten-thirty we went over to the auditorium and watched Sesame Street until PBS switched over to inauguration coverage. It made me think of Lily, for some reason: with any luck she'll be eight when Obama gets out of office. The first eight years of her life, she'll have a black president. She won't think it's weird or odd or historical, he'll be just another fact of her little life. How marvelous. The camera couldn't seem to stop sweeping over all the different faces in the crowd--so many different colors of people, a sea of waving American flags.

When it came time for the actual oath, Senator Feinstein asked the crowd to stand up. From behind me I could hear the "thump, thump" of theatre seats swinging shut as the sitters stood. I stood up too. We were about two hundred people, silently watching as Barack Hussein Obama took the oath of office, neatly stumbling over the same oath that most presidents manage to get through okay. The same oath that Washington took, on the same Bible that belonged to President Lincoln. I was bowled over by the sense of history. We Americans may not have much, timewise, but what history we do have is deep, rich, loamy, soaked in multiple layers of meaning and importance. It's impossible to do it any sort of justice any more. All we can do is stand and bear witness.

Afterward, I felt tired. All afternoon, as I stitched up torn shirts, just exhausted. More than two years watching, waiting. Same as the election: so much buildup, then the epiphanic release, only to realise the work's just begun. Things are not instantly better. I tried to carry the excitement through to the end of the day, but the financial report that was playing on NPR burst that bubble pretty quick. California Tortilla was giving away a free taco to anyone willing to do a silly dance, so I went over and got one...the counter help by that time was unimpressed with the smattering of Obama fans that were still dribbling in, jaded by our enthusiasm and our wide-eyed optimism. But the free taco tasted pretty sweet all the same.

Victory tastes pretty sweet. All the fear that I felt from the previous administration is gone. Lifted, replaced by anticipation. The apathy, the skepticism, the sheer horror, the embarassment, it's all gone. President Obama asked me to hang in there, sacrifice and work hard to make a better day for America? For him, I'll do it. I will trust that he is holding up his end of the bargain: if I can just hang in there, he will be working on his end to make a better future for us all. Maybe that's the difference between him and President Bush, I trust President Obama. It's scary times we're living in, we need someone who can lead us in the right direction. I trust that we've made the right choice.

The road goes ever onward...

1 comment:

Peter said...

And this is why I ask why don't you write more for Op-ed type stuff and then start getting paid major money.

Speaking of Lily, she was probably watching Sesame Street also. She loves it and when Brenda turns it on her attention is focused on the TV only.