Waldlaw Blog

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Yes, We Did!

Barack Hussein Obama is now President of the United States. What more can I say? Okay, I’ll say a little more.... Monday evening, my son and I joined Kate Clinton at Dupont Circle for a public purification ritual designed at driving any bad spirits left behind by the Bush administration out of the White House, out of Washington DC, and out of our own minds and hearts. Songs were sung, sage was burned, jokes were made (it was, after all, Kate Clinton). Kate noted a good omen in what many had only seen as a near miss – the US Air flight which came down in the Hudson River a few days earlier. As she noted, a plane had an emergency in New York, and it didn’t hit any buildings. There was a highly competent pilot in charge. A strong team of flight attendants was ready to do what needed to be done. A community of boats came right to the rescue. Could this be a “sign” of what’s coming?? What strong leadership and a sense of hope and community can accomplish?? It was a moving analogy, if slightly far-fetched.... Our day Tuesday started at 6:30 a.m. with a knock on the door and our host’s voice telling us that we’d better get going if we wanted to make it to the Mall for the inauguration. We threw on every warm piece of clothing in our suitcases, and were out the door by 7:00. We were staying near Howard University, and it was about a ½ hour brisk walk straight down 7th Street to Pennsylvania Avenue. At every cross street, we were joined by more folks on foot, all headed in the same direction. The newspaper had said that 7th Street would be one of the few places that pedestrians could cross Pennsylvania Avenue – which was mostly blocked off because of the parade – but when we got to within a few blocks of Pennsylvania it became clear that there was no way we were getting across – the police had had to block it, because so many folks were already arriving to stake out spots for the parade. To make a long story short, what followed was a 3 hour trek to find access to the Mall, wandering all the way down to 1st Street, then all the way back up to 21st Street. Despite many discouraging comments from overwhelmed security officers along the lines of “you can’t get there from here,” it was a “yes we can” day, and ultimately yes we did. Once we got to the Mall, it was way easier to navigate. We watched the inauguration on a Jumbo-tron right next to the Washington Monument, along with hundreds of thousands of others who had also trekked in by foot from far-flung places (all bridges were closed between DC and Virginia, so anyone coming from Virginia had no choice but to come on foot). It was cold. It was crowded. It was moving and joyful and tearful and wonderful. And, as with the concert two days earlier, the sense of calm and mutual well-being was truly stunning in a crowd so big. Honestly, folks continued to share hope and laughter and tidbits of information all morning, even as we were being turned back from checkpoint after checkpoint. The experience of cheerful camaraderie with the masses of humanity who had made the same pilgrimage we had made – despite broad differences in age, race, region and experience – is one of the primary things that made the whole weekend so memorable. As far as the inauguration itself goes -- well, I assume you all have seen or heard as much of it as you want to by now. The only thing I will say about Rick Warren’s invocation is this: If he actually reads and thinks about the words he said – if he takes to heart his own message of inclusion – we’ll all be fine. On the other hand, Rev. Lowery’s benediction was wonderful, and ended the whole event with laughter – a truly fitting end to the most upbeat and inspirational ginormous event I may ever have the privilege of attending. His final words: “Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around ... when yellow will be mellow ... when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen.” And with that, it was over, with a huge waive of laughter and a million + Amen’s. It was a long and logistically complex weekend. I am exhausted. But my spirit is replenished and I now know – having seen it with my own eyes – that there are millions of us out there, of all races, religions, ages and stages, who are ready to work for the good of our country and our world, and who truly believe that the time for change has come. There is no question that we have much hard work to do, but this weekend renewed my confidence that we can, in fact, do it. Si, se puede. Yes, we can.


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