Yesterday, Sunday, the day before MLK day, kids doing their best to harass one another into acts of violence (no pacifists growing up here, nosirree). We were listening to the broadcast of the “We Are One” concert on the radio, or at least I was listening to it until I started vacuuming. But when I turned the vacuum off and started winding up the cord to put the thing away, I heard Barack’s voice addressing the thousands of people on the mall … “no doubt that our road will be long, that our climb will be steep. But never forget that the true character of our nation is revealed not during times of comfort and ease, but by the right that we do when the moment is hard. I ask you to help me reveal that character once more, and together, we can carry forward as one nation…”
And damn if I didn’t get all weepy, kneeling there on the floor winding up my vacuum cleaner cord. My kids stopped fighting long enough to stare at mommy – although when they saw that I wasn’t injured, they went right back to their baiting and bopping.
Friends of mine are reporting a similar syndrome: a tendency, during this inaugural weekend, to get all vklempt utterly without warning. Some turn of phrase filters through the household noise; or a photo op catches the eye; or you suddenly remember – as a friend of mine said – that Voldemort is dead (and let’s be clear here that by invoking he-who-must-not-be-named, we are referring to Cheney, not potus-the-doofus).
What is it? Why are we all suddenly, collectively, misty-eyed at the thought of the Obamas moving into the White House? Is the birth of the “Obama Presidency” the death of cynicism?
Remember when Jon Stewart, during the campaign, reminded his audience that it’s okay to laugh at Barack?
Stewart is right, of course – I know we can laugh at Barack … except so far he hasn’t done anything particularly funny. Or jaw-droppingly illegal. Or breathtakingly ignorant. Or stunningly arrogant. Or wincingly embarrassing. Bush’s eight years have been god’s gift to cynics, comedians, and oil execs. The rest of us? mmm…not so much
What will we all do, those of us who have spent the last eight years being – variously – snarky, bitter, and terrified? What if our ability to believe can’t extend beyond the ballot box? What if our feelings of patriotism, optimism, and civic pride have rusted from disuse? Are we really, really going to wake up and help this man do all that we’ve asked him to do?
Yes. Yes, I think we will. Wake Up. And for the first time in a long time, I’m not laughing at myself for feeling all do-goody and optimistic. My cynical self seems to be on holiday
somewhere (Dallas, perhaps? Crawford?) and that too seems exciting: suddenly it doesn’t seem hopelessly naive to think that maybe It’s
All Going To Be Okay.
The lines of the Whitman poem that head this blog seem oddly apropo for such a chaotic time of upheaval, renewal, and excitement: maybe in Barack we’ve found a leader “liquid, sane, unruly, musical, self-sufficient” – a leader who yokes together disparate elements, who doesn’t see the world in terms of either/or (with us or against us; good or evil) but in terms of both/and (black and white, national and global).
Tomorrow, as it happens, is my forty-fifth birthday (now Michelle and I are the same age. I know we could be BFF if she would just call me!) I plan to celebrate my arrival on the doorstep of middle-age by planting myself on the couch with the TV remote (going to watch the Obamas on every single possible channel); a really, really big box of kleenex; and perhaps just a dollop (or two) of champagne.
Birthdays 41 and 37 were significantly less exuberant occasions – but this
one? What a gift. Would only that the symbolism had completely lined up
and Barack were Prez 45, not 44. But I’ll take it, regardless – and share
this birthday gift with the rest of you. I will also share with you the birthday wish I’m going to make tomorrow night, when I blow out the candle on my cupcake: that Barack’s second term ushers in my 49th year.