Friday, January 23, 2009

Inauguration 2009, a bro's view

Finally, after days of roving the sub-zero hills of West Virginia, the frozen grounds of DC, of freezing my chin off, injuring my right eye from street dust and getting my second head cold this month, I'm back in Miami and here to report. 

I flew up to National Airport (my Aunt refuses to acknowledge it as Reagan), ready to brave the maddening number of dedicated, liberal onlookers, like myself, and the below freezing temps. I thought I was ready, at least. I was not ready.

The night before the inauguration my cousin Farrah and I decided we'd stay in, but since she lives on the loudest street in God's creation, we slept about two hours. My friend Rick was with us, as he worked two inaugural events, both of which included famous performers (think Smokey Robinson, Jon Bon Jovi-- he pissed next to Little Richard) and both of which included the Obamas, one being an official ball. My other friend Tyler drove straight through from Miami with two friends, slept 3 hours, watched the inauguration, ate Ethiopian and then drove all 20 something hours back home. Other than these four, the only other Miamian I knew up there is currently a New Yorker- Richard, and I haven't heard his experience yet. I hope it was tops.

Our troops rose at 8ish to walk down to the National Mall to greet our new liberal administration with smiles and cheers. After about a 40 minute walk, and the realization that we would not be getting anywhere near the Capitol, I mean NO WHERE near the Capitol, we lugged our frozen limbs a mile back toward where we came from, and were mostly separated by crowds and anxiety. At this point, we were back by the Washington Monument, our view was similar to what is pictured above. Since there were no jumbotrons (this was the word of the week- see there's one below- the huge TV) in sight, we moved a bit back and toward the White House, where there was a place we could hear better, and see some of the action taking place about an unobstructed mile away. 

We froze, and Farrah sulked that we weren't sitting on stage (a la Mariah Carey). I actually kept it together somewhat, well, more than I had at the concert (last post). And despite our incessant complaining, which made Rick want to smother us, I really think we made it through on anticipation. There was about a 10 second delay on the jumbotron, and it was mostly best to just close our eyes. 

The crowds cheered as our favorites walked out- Gore, Clinton, Ted (poor Ted), and even Farrah perked up when Jimmy Carter walked out. When G.W. Bush's mug flashed on screen, there were about 2 million boos and then a whole lot of "na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, Good-bye!"s. I felt kind of like it was wrong to mock the poor evil doer, so I only cheered when Farrah yelped toward the jumbotron: WAR CRIMINAL! As mocking isn't fair, but facts are, and he is a war criminal. 

When Rev. Rick Warren spoke the inaugural prayer, one guy next to me got down on one knee, with a US flag in his hand, raised toward the heavens, thanking God for this day. And when Rev. Rick Warren said the line, "We now commit our new president and his wife Michelle and his daughters, Malia and SASSSHHHHAAAA..." even the guy kneeling laughed at the Reverend's exuberant tone. It was hilarious, no explanation needed- you tube it. 

Then the moment came where we actually forgot that our toes were numb beyond any feeling and our noses were almost frostbitten: the swearing in! For all of the torture this day held, it was worth it for those moments when we shed the cloak of tyranny and we welcomed a new hope for the land of MY people and all of our people. I cried and hugged and we cheered. The speech was beautiful (click here for full transcript). It was only a few minutes versus the 8 hour trek, but to feel the world turn, change and the whole earth listening, our hearts were full of Goodbyes to the old and Thank Yous for the new, to feel the energy of that many like-minded people in one place (the population of Dade County); these were minutes of true worth. 

To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

When we tried to leave, we were bound in by throngs of cold people with no crowd control. People knocked down fences; we were 2 million deep in chaos. Farrah mentioned how this reminded her of how the Palestinians must feel as they wait for hours at endless Israeli checkpoints, waiting to get to hospital, work or home. After an hour, the cops finally arrived and ushered us further from our destination- allowing tour buses to pass in front of us humans. The one moment of relief came when one daring dude ran along the porto potties, pictured below. Everyone laughed, then went back to complaining. 

I have more to report from this trip, but I want to flash forward to a moment I had on my way home at National (not Reagan) Airport. I was purchasing tons of Obama materials for my mother, and I started thinking about what this meant to the people around me. There were sorts from all backgrounds. There were many, many black people, certainly, but also many Hispanic, Asian, Native American, white. I thought about the black lady next to me (in fur), and how she must feel like- WE DID IT- we meaning those of African descent. But then I looked at this awkward white lady, probably of Eastern European descent, and I thought of how she sees this- WE DID IT- and for her it might mean what it means for me, the Other became the One. Outsiders became insiders. 

I didn't think we could win with Hillary, we're too far from that Other gaining power, but we did it with a half African, half white man. I am a Catholic-raised, white woman who is made from the stories and genes of Lebanese and Czeck immigrants who came over the turn of the last century, Irish immigrants who cleaned houses, French immigrants who came to Canada in the 1600s, and then to America, dirt poor, in the 1900s, and English settlers, who came around about the time of the Mayflower. I am a mix, like many Americans. I came from poor people, from farmers and city folk, from the same stock as other presidents as well. But I am not "pure" white like they were, not Protestant. I am though, an American. For me this means something different than it means for someone who was affected by Jim Crow laws, but it still means something huge for a mix like me, an activist like myself, for a lover of justice, and for any of us who want to see this world find peace. 

1 comment:

Emily Sue said...

I never thought about it, but I saw on the news people that from Duluth went to our Congressman's and Senator's offices in DC and got tickets to get inside a special area! Still wasn't a guarantee of entry, and still far away, but a little bit better. Something to think about for 2013?