Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My Inaugural Experience

I'm sitting in a friend's house in DC the morning after the inaugural, and while everyone else is still sleeping, and we later begin the 8 hour trip back to North Carolina, I thought I'd jot down a few thoughts about my experience (well, it started out that way....).

Our 7am Metro trip into the National Mall from the DC suburbs of Silver Springs was the first clue of what was to come during the rest of the day. Even though we were close to the end of the Metro line, the train was already full as the five of us, Anyaa and three friends, squeezed on. We watched as hundreds of others at the stops along the way had to wait for the next trains.

As we left our arrival station in downtown DC, not far from the Mall (we thought), we were struck by the incredible size of the crowd: hundreds of thousands of people all trekking to the mall from every direction. It took us about an hour and a half to walk the two miles to our final place on Mall. The air was electric with excitement. These were people that were totally jazzed about all of the implications of this Inauguration.

We finally arrived at the Mall, and again, the crowds! We spent an hour getting our party into one of the huge banks of port-a-potties, knowing we wouldn't be able to move once we were on the mall. Everyone was careful not to drink water and eat light that morning in anticipation.

We had to stand the entire time. There simply was not enough room to sit and you could not have possibly fallen over. We were close to the Washington monument, and the Greek--inspired phallic obelisk monument as the symbol of our country's father, was not lost on us. It was a vast sea of humanity and diversity as far as the eye could see, all celebrating what they hoped was the dawn of a new era while doing what we came to call the "Obama Shuffle," as we moved our feet only slightly as we were carried by the crowd to a place where we could just see one of the Jumbo-tron viewing screens placed around the Mall.

During the parade of dignitaries, all of the living ex-presidents were introduced. When George W. Bush was introduced, the crowd broke into singing "Nah-nah-nah-nah, Hey, hey, hey....goodbye..." It felt like the whole crowd was singing! They'd obviously had enough of the last eight years.

Every time Barack and Michelle came on the giant screens, the crowd exploded. As he finally gave his acceptance speech, many of us teared up, some openly crying, moved by the hope of change and what it meant. I thought it was an excellent speech, but not a great speech. Of course, I was waiting for the one-liner that would take the speech into the history books...a line like "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself" or JFK's "Ask not" speech. It did not come. I loved his balance of government and personal responsibility and the remaking of America.

What did come, being in the crowd, was unity and the sense of all being One, with united purposes and goals, an incredibly healthy Green/post-modernism that could move us forward into a brighter future, a better world, where America can become a beacon of light and higher power for the rest of the world as opposed to demanding respect by the threat and use of miltary power, but still recognizing that there are real threats and we must remain strong. We hugged and congratulated perfect strangers. We laughed and cried. We prayed that this was an indication of the change we've been waiting for, and that we are, indeed, that change, knowing we'd have to be for it to manifest in the world.

After the Inauguration was over, everyone began trying to get out at the same time, in sharp contrast to a spaced out arrival procession. What a zoo! Again, the Obama Shuflle, everyone moving just a few inches, taking hours to finally get on the metro and head back to Silver Springs. This was badly organized, with no help from the infrastructure of Police and Fire personnel, some of whom acting annoyed about being asked for directions.

We finally got home, just in time to get ready to go out that night to the Inaugural Peace Ball, sponsored by Code Pink. I won't go into details, as you can click on the links to find out more, but we had an awesome time! Particularly memorable were appearances and performances by Alice Walker, Eve Ensler, Joan Baez, Dick Gregory, Amy Goodman, a smokin' fusion band called "Fertile Ground," and Michael Franti and Spearhead. We had a great time swimming in a healthy green pool.

All in all, Anyaa and I had an amazing experience, one we wanted to be part of, in the hope that this really is part of a larger historical shift, and that millions and millions of others are shifting with it. Now it's time to go to work.