Reflections on the Inauguration

Posted January 26, 2009 on 2:34 pm | In the category Bush/Cheney, Election 2008, Inauguration, Obama, Uncategorized | by Jeff

“George W. Bush did enormous damage to America’s standing in the world and its strength at home. Yet the vitality of the US system resurfaced, and American voters have chosen in Barack Obama a man of vision and statesmanship. It now falls to him to renew the confidence and restore the reputation of the American republic.” Financial Times editorial, January 18, 2009

The inauguration was a blast –for many reasons: it was the end of the Bush/Cheney era; it was a symbolic period at the end of a long sentence of overt and then nuanced racism; it was the end of a generation of conservative mis-rule of America’s treasure; and an opportunity for people to celebrate possibilities and for a few days put aside the worries produced by the destruction of the Bush years.

As someone who tends to avoid huge crowds I felt some anxiety as I headed for the mall with my friend John for the Sunday concert. Joining some 800,000 people between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument turned out to be a glorious event – full of great music, thankfully brief speeches (has Joe Biden ever before spoke for less than five minutes?) and a huge crowd of happy and grateful citizens. No one complained about the cold or the relatively brief wait to get through security. John and I began our hike back to his car as the President-elect spoke, thinking the concert was over but were brought up short as the recognizable voice of Pete Seeger came loud and clear singing Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is My Land”.  Stopped us in our tracks.

Following a festive dinner Monday night, Tuesday began with an early morning trip to the security point to get to a law office on Pennsylvania Avenue to which a friend’s brother-in-law had gotten invitations for us to view the afternoon parade.  My wife and I then spent three hours in what the press later called a “line” but which was actually a mob. The National Park Police and DC police had efficiently managed Sunday’s security, but on Tuesday we were under the control of the Secret Service. It is enough to say that after 2.5 hours in a “line” two-plus blocks long and 15-20 people across in frigid weather, moving at a dead snail’s pace, we were confronted by a DC policeman who declared a medical emergency and ordered everyone to disperse. This turned out to have no effect; the crowd simply surged forward threatening to crush the people in front against the metal cage security gates. Imagine a Brazilian soccer crowd on an acid trip and you get the drift. So we bagged it.

We gave up standing in the bitter cold for the comfort of seats at a friendly bar at Dupont Circle two feet from a flat screen TV and Bloody Mary mix. The bar was full for the actual inauguration and people drank, wept, cheered and totally ignored Bush and Cheney when they were introduced. Someone wondered whether old white guys would tear up when Obama took the oath. The answer? Yes we can.  Yes we can.

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