Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Oh Happy Day

What a great and historic day. It felt great to be alive and great to live in the United States. We got in to DC on Monday night and right away one could sense the buzz. The lobby of the hotel was full of people who had come from all over the country just for the event. When we went for dinner, PF Changs was packed to the gills and in the background one could hear the conversations. It was all pretty much about one topic. (No surprise there!)

We woke up at 5 and were at the subway station by 6 AM. It took us two hours to get to the Mall (a trip that typically takes about 30 minutes). The train was packed. Excited conversations permeated the air. The guys beside me were from NY, the Hispanic couple behind me were from California. I even saw a Canadian flag or two. Talk was about last minute pardons and whether Bush could pardon himself or do blanket pardons of anyone involved in the torture program prior to an indictment etc.

Once we got there the impact of being 2 people in a sea of 2 million became evident. We were carried around like flotsam on this sea of humanity. Somehow the tidal currents were not in our favor and the riptide of people kept pushing us out further and further until we arrived at 15th street a good mile and a half from the Capitol and at the Northwest corner of the Washington Monument. It didn’t really matter though. We were there and the moment was sweet and our hopes were high. After 8 dark years of ruinous rule one could feel a palpable sense of hope emanating throughout the crowd. The boil that had bothered us through our long and dreary winter was finally going to be lanced. A new dawn was on the horizon.

The mood was joyous but not boisterous. It was not the joy of winning a superbowl but a quiet and beautiful joy that I've actually never experienced before. It was also a uniting joy. Older more conservative generations and the young united in a common purpose.

For me it was sweet to be amongst my peeps. People generally of the belief that Bush and Cheney did little good (inferred from the vociferous boos when he was introduced and the singing of the "nah nah, Hey Hey goodbye" song etc). People of the belief that Bush and Cheney with their mendacious, molestation of our Constitution committed some serious crimes against the American people and ruined our international reputation.

My regret was that I did not have a tape recorder. There were so many older African Americans in the crowd. I would have loved to have interviewed them and capture their responses. Some other people did just that.

The emotions were building. The spirit of MLK seemed to be present everywhere. I knew when the moment came, when Barack finally placed his hand upon that Bible, I would shed a tear. It was inevitable and when the moment finally came at 12.05 Eastern time (by my watch) I did. I shed a tear and thought of all the ones who went before, who made this moment possible. I thought of MLK of course and Rosa Parks' dignified "No" that started it all, of Emmet Till and his indescribably painful death at the hands of a white mob, of Freedom Riders and the four little girls who died a fiery death in the 16th street Baptist church in Birmingham. I thought of JFK and RFK and their courage to stand up to Bull Connor and George Wallace, those unrelenting agents of hate. I thought of barking dogs and water hoses and the vicious beating that John Lewis endured. All of this pain was unnecessary but it made the eventual victory even sweeter.

Rick Warrens prayer was more of a speech, than a prayer but a splendid one indeed. Let there be no doubt that God is in the public square in this great nation. The next time a conservative manufactures a crisis about a war on Christmas or the lack of God in our national discourse, point them to the Mall on Jan 20, 2009. So many of the heads were bowed in quiet reflection while Rick Warren prayed. This is a god-fearing nation whether you like it or not. Ending it with the Lords prayer and a direct call to Jesus in his many names "Haysoos", Yeshua etc would also have sent a reassuring message to evangelicals especially those that did not vote for Obama. (Not sure whether the ACLU will concur :)

Pastor Lowery's benediction was the bomb though. Now there is a man (87 years young) with some serious style and panache….He ended with asking the crowd for an Amen three times and they complied with a roar.

Then the day took a challenging turn. DC is not set up to handle an influx of 2 million. Is any city really? The waits to get back to the suburbs were horrendous. We waited in line 2.5 hrs at L'Enfant Place station. People were collapsing from a lack of air and heat exhaustion (They turned off the air in the mall it seems). Visions of the New Orleans superdome during Katrina briefly flashed through my mind. But all was eventually well. The national guard was present along with helpful Transit authority cops. The crowd was extremely well behaved and helpful, passing bottles of water and still generally in good spirits. We finally boarded the train and got back to McLean, VA around 6 PM and caught up on all the things we missed during the day on TV.


Post a Comment

<< Home