I didn't get to watch this in real time. I was at work and didn't have access to a television. I have a computer but it doesn't have working speakers (my work one anyway!) so I could have seen them mouth their oaths but that would have been sort of weird. So I listened when my wife called me with tears in her voice still. She told me how those tears ran freely down her face as she watched, how she and our boys stood silently and watched as this new president took his oath.
I watched recaps of as much as I could when I got home. Images have swirled in my mind ever since. It has been hard to have them coalesce into anything that makes sense. It is like the fractured bits of pictures that one sees when looking through a kalaidoscope. Something beautiful, something magical, but hard to explain.
One of those swirling picture bits was all the flags waving as 2 million people stood joyfully in the cold to celebrate this day. To be present and to witness. To be part of history, tradition and also change. 2 million people so moved, so present that there was not a single arrest. I can't wrap my mind around that. I live in a city of 46000 and we have arrests at every large public gathering. But there was not one there that day. To me, there was something so hopeful and so positive about 2 million people bringing their best selves there that day.
Another was an image of energy. I know the key word there is probably image. And there is no guarantee that an image is truly reality. But I was struck by the energy, enthusiasm and joyful demeanor of the Obama family. All of them seemed unafraid to just be themselves. To smile and wave. Not the little bored waves that one typically sees. Just all out, "hey there how are you" waves. And smiles so big that no one was thinking "does this look nice for the cameras."
I am glad that I live in a country where change could happen without bullets. Without the kind of desparate fighting that say, brought an end to apartheid in S. Africa. I was proud that for this one moment in time, we truly did transcend race. We voted beliefs. I didn't vote for Obama because he was a black man. I voted for him because I felt his platform, while not fully attainable made sense to me. And I voted against John McCain because he indicated a willingness to support a draft and I am a mother of 3 boys. I don't want my boys drafted into wars that only make sense to oil markets. I become incensed everytime I hear a newscaster tell of another young person who has died "to protect the USA." Died to protect the interests of the USA perhaps. But not the people. I truly believe we are not in a situation where that kind of risk is upon us, or if it is, that we are safer because of this response.
The image of our new President with his hand on the Lincoln Bible will stay with me always. As a parent I am always telling my children that they can be whatever they set their minds to. But to be fair to them, and to help them stay safe, I have had to teach them other things too. Things like DWB, things like how sometimes they have to be "better" than a white peer just to be viewed as "equal." But for that one prismatic moment in time, we didn't need any of those qualifiers to our life experience. We could revel in the moment, in the joy that our country does overwhelmingly want a change.
I hope the country is ready for the sacrifice that will be necessary to enact that change. But I have hope. Because if 2 million people could get along on January 20, 2009, well maybe anything is possible.