Sunday, February 1, 2009

Refugees from Hell

My feet are finally touching the ground again. I no longer feel the overwhelming need to watch the news constantly to find out what MY President has done today. I've pretty much stopped tearing up whenever a newscaster says the words "President Obama." I'm no longer totally obsessed with how Michelle and the girls are adjusting to life in the White House. It's almost back to life as usual (absent that huge, oppressing weight of hopelessness I've been carrying around for eight years). So I just want to record one last recollection of being at the Inauguration.

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,

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