At what point did the inauguration “get” you?
You know, at what point did the whole spectacle of that whole thing last Tuesday get to you in that break-down-sobbing “There’s hope for this country after all” kind of mood, where you clutch to your loved ones and look around at the world with new eyes? At what stage along the way did it finally get to you--that rush of release at the personal sensation of having an immense weight lifted off of our national karma? Did that happen for you?
Got me about the third day, I clearly remember the moment.
Understand I am a professional cynic. I don’t give in easily to the idea of trust or hope in my government. As a child of the 50s, I’ve been lied to by said government about the Kennedy assassination, the King assassination, the other Kennedy assassination, and oh yes, the Kennedy assassin at Chappaquiddick, and that’s just the Ks.
Vietnam, Cambodia, (nukes, oil, banks, sex, drugs, AND rock n roll), Russia, China, Watergate, Chile, Afghanistan, South America, Central America, the Schools of the Americas, Iran-Iraq, Iran-Contra, Star Wars, the S& L Crisis, the Gulf War, Gulf War Syndrome, New Taxes or the lack thereof, Clinton’s Women, and on and on; and all that was last century before the real pros took over. As the man says, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” And that slave rapist was supposedly one of the good guys.
So, despite the inauguration fever all around me, I was slow to embrace the possible joys of living under an actually democratically elected well-intentioned leader as opposed to the mass murdering kleptocrat I’d been enduring. I was duly awed at the sight of a million and a half people on the National Mall. So much happiness it was contagious. And, I admittedly took pleasure as I analyzed Obama’s speech with one of my classes to search for clues of intentions and condemnations and nodded at their admiration as they stared at the screen at a black man they wanted to be like who was not limited to doing something with a ball, swilling champagne while mumbling obscene rhymes, or capping someone’s ass with a nine. It felt real good, I admit it, but still—
The liberal in me had already tapped out a long laundry list of various Obama positions to be wary about. Still, I hummed along with my wife’s recurring mangling of the “Obama, Obama” song as we watched ball-watching commentators gush. And I smiled proudly at my four year old granddaughter when she squealed with delight, “That man is Obama” as she pointed at the TV screen throughout the following days.
Then that Thursday night after watching my wife continue to pore over the newly Obama-fied Whitehouse.gov website, I heard her gasp with excitement, “New executive orders!” as she leaned into the screen of her laptop with wonder.
Now, having been a frequenter of the Bush Whitehouse site while showing students how to write research papers over the last eight years and a peruser of Obama’s Change.gov site, I could not recall ever having a moment like that when I felt such joy about any page I’d ever found. So I had to give a look.
And that’s where I got hooked. It was the Jan. 21st presidential records executive order that first set my heartstrings a-twittering. After clawing my way through the boiler plate I found this nugget in section 3 (b), “The Attorney General and the Counsel to the President, in the exercise of their discretion and after appropriate review and consultation under subsection (a) of this section, may jointly determine that invocation of executive privilege is not justified.”
For the first time in eight years I saw it written in plain English that someone with the power to do so might actually tell Bush “No.” That moved me I must say; but I think it was when I opened the agenda menu and read that the first item was Civil Rights, that I first realized I was falling in love.
End racial profiling, civil unions formalized and equalized, equal sentencing for all forms of cocaine? A president who not only knows what the term LGBT means and has an entire set of policies on LGBT issues beyond something along the lines of “Well, equal rights may be OK for some of us, but the Bible says them folks is sinners.” Was this to be an America I was familiar with?
When I scanned my way to the other end of the impressively long alphabetical list and saw the word “Women,” I was genuinely curious instead of smirking as I had whenever the words “Clinton” and “Women” were juxtaposed or, groaning as I had during the Bush years when the term “women” only came up in the GOP’s policy considerations as it related to ways to overturn Roe V. Wade.
The tears finally began to well when I opened the Immigration page. It opens with a quote from Obama’s senate days that ends with the line, “Where we can bring in more foreign-born workers with the skills our economy needs, we should." -- Barack Obama, Statement on U.S. Senate Floor, May 23, 2007. Instead of Bush’s stall, this felt like a good start on an under discussed ultra urgent issue. As I read through the details of how to deal with the millions of undocumented émigrés already with us I started to balk, till I looked again at the words “Bringing People Out of the Shadows.” There was something about the humanity in those words. Maybe I didn’t agree with some of his methods, but at least now there’s hope.
And in the instant I realized I was feeling hope in America because of my president, not in spite of him, that’s when I got “got” by that inauguration feeling and that’s the moment I cried.
They were stored up bitter tears. I’ve been grieving for my country a long time. The change is going to do me good.