I’m writing this around 4pm on Monday afternoon, having just got back from the Inaugural celebrations and skirting the parade route, and WHAT A DAY! Just a few thoughts about being here during this event, so I don’t forget – and if any of you were here, I’d love to hear what you think as well.
Let’s start with some pros and cons…
sharpshooters near the Capitol
– Absolutely disastrous crowd control. If it weren’t for the unbelievable goodwill emanating from the mass, and the singular dedication to being “team players”, there would have been big problems. Any other event might have spawned riots.
We had Purple tickets provided by our Congresswoman, evidently some of the best seats to see Obama being sworn in. I thought we were pretty frickin’ cool, until we got to the gate, and saw just how special we were:
That’s about 5% of the people there, and yep, every single person in front of Tessa had Purple tickets… and they had randomly closed the gate 1/2 hour before the Inauguration was to begin. Rumors swirled there had been a “security breach”, and hope flagged, none of us moving a centimeter with time ticking away. The people next to us had been there since 6:30am, and the people next to them had been there five minutes.
In other words, there was no right way to have participated. These throngs had given sweat and tears to help elect their leaders, traveled thousands of miles, and were frozen out of the ceremony, unable to move. Our brother-in-law suffered a back injury from the crush and had to leave.
Tessa stood up on top of a parking meter and gave news to the crowd: the gates were opening, but the pace was impossibly slow, and you still had to go through the magnetic security clearance. We made a personal decision: Lucy was at the Intercontinental Hotel with Laura, and while we might have made it in, we decided to jog through the freezing streets back to our daughter.
So… we saw the Inauguration the same way everyone else did: on TV!
– Zero centralized communication. There was no website, no pamphlets… hell, there wasn’t even a guy with a bullhorn shouting basic information. Would it be too much to ask, in this day and age, to have a central data feed somewhere? Maybe a text blast to everyone who wants to know, with messages like “PURPLE GATE CLOSED, PLEASE USE SILVER GATE ON PENN AVE” or “PARADE DELAYED 50 MIN, STILL OPEN SPOTS BY E STREET”.
Policemen had no idea what was going on, nor did the “Secret Service Police” with army fatigues and SECRET SERVICE POLICE emblazoned on their backs, nor did anybody running the Metro stations. They counted on our exaggerated sense of anti-boat-rocking, but as you might have heard, it made a lot of people miserable.
– Constant, blood-curdling sirens. I get it, there are a lot of dignitaries with motorcades, sure, some people were collapsing from the cold, but seriously: thirty straight hours of sirens on every street? I’ve lived in Manhattan, and I’ve spent a depressing number of hours on the road in Los Angeles – but this was ridiculous. The sirens were so bad that people started ignoring them out of frustration, thus walking in front of ambulances anyway.
Instead of driving a pen-knife into our bleeding eardrums all day long, couldn’t they have just driven normally, and occasionally used that special Get The Fuck Out of My Way horn when needed? Babies crying, kids cowering – OISH! Not to say “won’t somebody please think about the children,” but won’t somebody, um, please, um, think about, y’know, the children?
– No toddler shirts. Speaking o’ which, there were MILLIONS of homemade and silkscreened Obama T-shirts, but they all came in two sizes: XXXL and XXXXL. Lucy wanted a shirt that had Obama’s forehead/eyes with Martin Luther King’s mouth saying “My Dream Is Come” (not exactly my favorite) but it was bigger than her bedroom.
– Who gives a fuck about any of that? WE GOT OURSELVES A REAL PRESIDENT, EVERYBODY!!! The Media Frenzy has been trying to sell our own emotions back to ourselves for weeks now, but it didn’t matter, it was still magical and utterly fantastic. Ikea couldn’t ruin it:
Budweiser couldn’t ruin it:
Pepsi couldn’t ruin it:
Even the guy selling Obama Hot Sauce on 10th Street couldn’t ruin it. The whole day was like the end of A Charlie Brown Christmas, when the pathetic little tree comes to life, and everyone sings together. No amount of commercialism can take any of that away.
– Nicest gathering of Americans in history. It was like Mardi Gras without the boobs, and none of the wanton drunkenness. More like a National Championship celebration, but longer-lasting. People from all walks of life, no matter what social strata, had no problem striking up conversations with absolute strangers.
Train rides, bus rides, lines – of which there were many – instantly became shared experiences with lots of laughter. Very little whining (although I always do my best). This may seem like a cliché, and perhaps temporary, but the usual big-city apprehension between blacks and whites seemed totally non-existent. It’s not easy to put this kind of gossamer dynamic into words, but it was as if the African American population possessed a kind of subconscious forgiveness for the whites around them. Something had slightly changed. It was remarked upon by a few people who dared say it, and god knows if any of us are right about it.
Does it exist? Is it widespread? Is it only temporary? It was one of those days that didn’t punish you for dreaming.
the moment Obama raised his right hand