Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Inauguration

It was a day of more emotions than I think I have ever experienced. I had not know there were so many shades of wonder, astonishment, joy, and disbelief. I started watching television around 10:15, around the time the Obamas arrived at the White House for coffee with the Bushes. I don't know why my eyes teared up at that moment, but they did. There were many such moments but there are two that stand out on this day after.

The first is the relief that flooded my body as George Bush boarded the helicopter, and later, the plane that took his pathetic self back to Texas. He liked to talk about good and evil, never imagining that there were many of us who saw him as that evil. For eight years we had to listen to that sniveling voice, we had to look at that smirk, we had to endure his ignorance and his world-view that allowed for no questions, no doubts, no learning. In another era he would have been locked in the pillory on the town square, and we would have walked by and thrown garbage at him.

Didn't it feel good to wake up today and know that George W. Bush was not in the Oval Office and Barack Obama was?

The second moment that will endure in my emotional memory is not any of the speeches or the pageantry, (excluding Aretha Franklin's hat). What will endure is the sight of those millions of people standing in the cold cheering this enormous change in the quality and nature of the political leadership, cheering themselves for getting involved and making a difference. What will endure is the sight of all those people, especially blacks and whites, side-by-side, united, sharing the same experience, and part of our nation's problem has been that there are too few experiences that blacks and whites have shared as equals. Let yesterday be the beginning of many thousands.

Part of the political genius of Obama and his advisers was that they organized outside the confines of the Democratic Party. Obama's vision brought people into the electoral process who had been indifferent because no one spoke to them. Obama's vision energized young people who had become cynical because all they saw on the political scene were childish adults with the most narrow of self-interests committed to the triumph of ideology over people.

I loved looking at the joy and the tears on the faces of people in the crowds. My wife observed that the reverence with which many of them held small pictures of President Obama was as if they were holding saints' cards. Joy and reverence are infectious emotions that have spread throughout the land like a healing balm soothing our many wounds from these past eight horrific years.

As I live with the emotional memory of those millions of people on the mall in Washington, joy pouring from their bodies as if it were a radiant light, I realize that the revolution we fought for in the 60s is finally over, and we won.

All of us. We won.

We won.

© 2009 by Julius Lester

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