Monday, March 23, 2009
Sunday, February 1, 2009
It was late in the afternoon on Tuesday, January 20th and I was making my way - along with about a million other people away from the Mall. I don't really know where other people were headed. I had lost my "Blanket Family" at this point, along with the angel who saw to it that I could see Obama get sworn in. I was on my own. All I wanted was to try to get out of the crowd, find a place where I could get something to eat, use a toilet and maybe thaw out enough to look at my maps, get my bearings and try to get through to John on the cell phone. The phone lines had been so jammed all day that we hadn't been able to call each other. And it was so damn cold that I couldn't be bothered to take off my gloves, fish out my maps and try to get my bearings. But it didn't really matter where I wanted to go, because everyone was being herded by the phalanx of police, military, secret service, guards of all kinds that were absolutely everywhere. So my only choice was to shuffle along with the mass crowd and just go wherever it led me.
It seemed to have gotten colder as the day wore on. And while I was still thrilled that I had been part of the throng, I was weary, really cold and hungry. I was as bundled as I could possibly be with my Eskimo-looking, fur-trimmed hood up over my head and snapped across my face and the heavy blanket I'd been dragging around all day, draped over everything. And in this way, I trudged slowly up 18th Street. My friend, Ulysses, was marching in the Parade with John and his wife and daughter would be watching it on TV at their place on 18th and S. I knew if I could get there, I'd at least have a place to thaw out and watch the parade with them. If all else failed, I knew John would go there with Ulysses after the parade.
Making my way up past DuPont Circle to S street, I felt like some kind of ragged war survivor. Cold, weary, hungry and with the worst case of hathead imagineable, there I was trudging blindly, one foot in front of the other, not really knowing or caring where I was headed, marching on and filled with a sense that I had just accomplished some great feat. I felt - and looked - like a refugee. When the crowd thinned out enough for me to look around, I noticed that the whole lot of us looked like refugees. Gleeful refugees. Cold refugees. But all looking like we had just survived something. And were now thankfully heading toward a better place.
And I couldn't help but feel like we really were refugees. That some of us had been fighting - very long and hard - against what we saw Bush and gang doing to our country and to this world for so long. And that our trudging out of the jubilation of what we had just witnessed on the Mall was, in so many ways, symbolic of our coming out of the hell of the past eight years and moving into something more hopeful.
And no, I don't think President Obama is perfect. And I don't agree with everything he has done or will do. He can't be all things to all people. He certainly won't be all things to all liberals. I know that. But he can be a bridge. I think he can help to take this country from the dark, angry, fearful place it has been for some time to a more enlightened and kind place. And then the rest of us - who want so much more for America and for the world - we can now step up and do our parts to bring about the change we wish to see in the world.
A better world is waiting (I've heard her breathing). I'm committed to doing my part to bring it about by answering the question, "How much good can a do-gooder do with one good book?"
I'll Keep You Posted,
Saturday, January 24, 2009
For those of you watching it at home, you might not have known that the crowd on the Mall erupted in a volcanic roar of booing and hissing at the sight of both Cheney and Bush. It was kind of amazing. Oh, it was the sort of thing I might think to do. The sort of thing I might have done if I were watching at home. But NOT the sort of thing I would have expected 2 million other people to do. And yet, here we were, nearly two million of us, all having the same gut reaction at the same time (because it was an eruption - not a wave). Of course not all of us. And in fact, a lovely young woman from my newly adopted "Blanket Family" was kind of appalled at how rude her fellow Americans were being. I think she felt that at such an historic moment, an event that the entire world was watching, we Americans ought to behave respectfully. Or at least politely. And she was right. Maybe we should have behaved more politely.
We were surely capable of it. I mean, this was a crowd of two million people - all unfailingly kind and gentle with one another. I saw people helping one another, people greeting one another, people saying kind things to one another all throughout the long, cold, uncomfortably crowded day. There were two million people AND NOT ONE ARREST. When the Washington news reported that fact the next morning, Jeremiah said, "Well, that's because Obama is President!"
And if my 11-year-old son's logic is to be followed, then maybe the booing and hissing at Bush and Cheney was because of Bush and Cheney. For the America they created over the past eight years has not been a kind one. They were not kind to us as they stripped us of our rights and our pride. And because of them, America as a nation was not kind to other nations as we bombed and plundered and invaded for no honest reason. And we were not kind to the planet as we were encouraged to continue to consume mindlessly, in denial of the real environmental cost of our actions. And I don't think many of us liked being treated that way. Because the truth is, I think Americans are kind and generous people at heart. But for the past eight years (and maybe longer), we've been encouraged, coerced, and in some ways forced to be unkind.
Fear not, my new friend, Kaitlyn. Your fellow countrymen and women are an overwhelmingly kind and polite and well-behaving lot. You, yourself at just 14-years-old, are a fine example of that. I suspect (and hope and pray) that in the hard times ahead, as we dig ourselves out and turn ourselves around, you will witness many instances of just how kind we can be to one another and to the rest of the fine people with whom we share this spaceship Earth. Just pay attention.
And it won't be because Barack Obama is President. Surely, his leadership will encourage us to be our best selves (at least that is my fervent hope). But we chose him, we elected him, we made him our President because he so wonderfully embodies and represents what we as Americans are: inherently good people who want to do our best for ourselves and each other and the rest of the world. Maybe now with Cheney wheeled away and Bush back in Texas, America can go back to being its better self.
No more booing and hissing. Not in public anyway!
Friday, January 23, 2009
So even though this week's topic over at The Debutante Ball is "Judging a Book By Its Cover," I've managed to turn that into a platform for blogging about ... you guessed it, being part of the Mosh Pit of History! So come on over to www.TheDebutanteBall.com. (Don't worry, you don't need pearls!) And leave a comment - here or there - about your own experience of The Inauguration. In the days ahead, John and I will both be writing more about our experiences in DC. So do check back when you can.
And I'll keep you posted,
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Details when I return home.
Monday, January 19, 2009
From the moment we got on the metro back in northern Virginia, it was like one big party. I looked around at everyone -many with Obama emblazoned hats, shirts, buttons and scarves - but even those without - smiles a mile wide plastered on all of our faces. All of us feeling it, just feeling that change was in the air, that history was about to be made and that we had been a part of it. Almost as soon as we got into DC a black guy with a camera asked to take our picture. "Yeah, white people for Obama!" I said. He high-fived me and we laughed. "Better days are ahead!" I said and he agreed.
We walked across the mall and toward the capital. Everywhere were the jumbotrons, the fenced off areas, the port-a-potties, the Obama paraphernalia and the people. Happy, happy people everywhere. And I'm thinking, this is Washington DC! I mean, I have been here, I don't know how many times in the past 8 years and it has never felt like this. Granted, when I've been here it's usually been to protest (god, there has been so much to protest over the past 8 years, it's hard to keep track). And each and every time I have felt like an enemy combatant. I have felt unwelcomed and as if I were an outsider, a thorn in the government's side. And yesterday, for the first time I felt like Washington DC was as much mine as anyone else's. Like maybe, just maybe it belonged to me.
For the first time in a very long time, when I saw all the American flags waving, I felt not jingoistic fear and anger but hope that maybe that flag could once again represent the dream of equality and justice for all people. And I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried when I saw the Capitol all wrapped up in red, white and blue bunting, saw the platform upon which Barack Obama will take the oath of office and even got to watch a few practice runs (with stand-ins). In fact, I shed quite a few tears yesterday. Walked around grinning like an idiot and spontaneously bursting into tears. And I don't think I'm the only one.
We were probably hours too late to get inside the security zone for the We Are One concert. A reporter from USA Today interviewed us just outside a security entrance that had just been closed. "Had do you feel about being turned away?" he asked. "Are the kids disappointed?" "Hell, it's just great to be here. To be part of this!" we told him. If he was looking for angry, unhappy people, I'm pretty sure he was in the wrong place. (Anyone know if we got quoted in USA Today?)
Leaving the concert, we stumpled upon the reporter and cameraman from our local newstation out of Springfield Massachusetts!!! Naturally, she interviewed us (anyone back home see us on Channel 40 News?) and we told them to watch for John in the Parade on Tuesday.
But total strangers also took our pictures - and we took theirs. "Where are you guys from?" two women from Mississippi asked us on a Metro platform? "Massachusetts!" we told them and they asked if they could take our pictures. "We're taking pictures of people from every state!" they told us excitedly. And we told them that we had worked for Obama in New Hampshire and we all squeeled with delight. And then, total strangers, we hugged each other good-bye.
Sunday was a long, exhausting day for us - tromping around DC with about a million of our closest friends. We got back to our car in Virginia at about 10 last night - absolutely spent. I couldn't shake the feeling that I had just witnessed change take place. I felt it. I had never felt so much optimism, hope and joy in place before. It was like Woodstock - only cold and surrounded by 7,000 port-a-potties! And I swear, if someone had thought to put up booths where folks could sign up to help - to join the Peace Corps, Teach-for-America, Vista, whatever - I'm guessing folks would sign on by the thousands to roll up their sleeves and do whatever they could to help dig this country out of the hole we're in now.
It's not just about how much people love Obama. It's clear that they do. But they also love his optimism and his hopefulness. I think they - we - love his belief that we can be a better country than we have been (certainly these past 8 years, and maybe much longer). That's the change I think I feel. That after so many years of our leaders behaving badly and encouraging the worst in us, now we might finally have a President who wants more from us, who expects the best of us. And I think we are only too happy to give it.
I feel the change already. And it's not even inauguration day yet!