Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Patriotism in unexpected places

I've been humming all day.

And grinning. Even when I am crying.

It is a remarkable day.

I know there are some who don't like this guy, but I really do. He is smart. He is bold. He challenges us all to be better than we are, to be more than we think we can be, to work more, try harder, reach farther, and achieve more.

We went to the local liberal movie house to watch a live broadcast of the inauguration. There was no cover charge, only a request to make a donation to the local food pantry. We loaded up a grocery bag and brought it. Additionally, some $1,200 and change was raised. Quite awesome, considering the place only seats about 250 people between the two tiny screening rooms.

But they serve fantastic pizza and beer and soda by the glass or the pitcher, and everyone was in a festive mood, even at 10:45 a.m. Old friends greeted each other in the lobby and in the theaters. It was a great mingle and meet sort of event. When things really began to get underway, when the past presidents and dignitaries and such were being introduced, people settled down and got serious about the drama being played out live on the big screen.

I was struck by the fact that the ABC broadcasters muted the crowd microphone pick-ups when dubya was introduced. I noticed the lack of noise - there had been even moderate applause for the chimp's dad, after all. A friend who arrived late said she heard the introduction in her car on National Public Radio as she pulled into the parking lot. She said the boos were deafening.

I smiled. Sweet. Corporate media can censor the people, but the public's radio never should. Very cool.

Let it be said here and now that Aretha Franklin is a living legend, a national treasure, and the legislature of Michigan was on the money when its members designated her voice as a treasured natural resource of the state. She had on a magnificent black-lady-going-to-church hat that was approximately the size of a barcalounger and by the time she was done singing "My Country 'Tis of Thee," I felt safe in predicting that the song will never be sung in public again without unfavorable comparisons to today's performance. Aretha Franklin is a formidable woman of substance and style and she carries herself like the queen that she is. Damn.

What astounded me the most was when Diane Feinstein asked those assembled before the US Capitol to stand while Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath of office to the new president, every soul in that dark little movie theater in Bar Harbor, Maine stood up. Many hats came off, and some held hands to hearts. The applause at the conclusion was deafening.

Later, when the Washington crowd was asked to stand for the singing of the national anthem, the crowd in the movie theater also stood up. Hats were doffed again, and nearly every voice there sang along. There was not a dry eye in the place.

I know the people who came to the party at the movie theater today. They are the old-school liberal lefties, the aging hippies and graying boomers. They are not prone to fits of patriotism or spontaneous acts of national pride. In fact, they are the ones who have been demonstrating on the village green every Sunday for the past eight years, protesting the war, Guantanamo, torture, and many, many things that the government has done in that time. Many of the gray heads have criminal records from sitting in back in the 1960s and again in the 1990s and 2000s. These are the disillusioned, the disenfranchised, the discouraged and cynical.

And every blessed one of them stood proudly today and reclaimed their country.

Including me.


dolphyngyrl said...

I was chatting with my exsupervisor today. She's concerned he won't live up to the hype. I told her that, if all this does is empower people to start holding their representatives accountable again, then huzzah and thank goodness.

But.. But... Did you see this? Did you see it, did you see it?

I was so excited after seeing it that it was all I could do to not go bouncing and squeeling through the office.

Because. You know. I am a total professional.

laughingatchaos said...

The boos were absolutely deafening. So were the choruses of "Na na na na...hey hey hey...goodbye!" I would have sung along, but I was too choked up by the day.
I watched alone today. Tom was gone, the boys at school (and I have hope for the educational system; they broadcast the ceremony building-wide). Just me and the dog and my kleenex box. It was a great, great day.
I have hope for the first time in years.

Bull said...

Guess I'm just old school but I found the booing to be a turnoff. Guess it's the way I was raised; whether he did a good/bad/ugly job, give him a dignified sendoff. Don't stoop. Stiff upper lip and all, you know.

I think Obama can be a great President. He'll do good things. He'll also make mistakes. Maybe some big ones. Lots of Presidents do...

I'm not holding my breath for the whole nation to come together and work as one. From history and my experience, it's always been the motivated few who make the major differences.

I am proud and excited that I could see this historic day, but I don't/won't get caught up in the "cult of celebrity" around the President. It causes people to expect too much, and to possibly be blind to failings. Both are dangerous.

dolphyngyrl is right on - people need to put their representatives to work for them and hold them accountable. President Obama's race, new tone and outlook are significant; but the newly democratic Congress is probably the most significant thing to the "common man".

Robin said...

What a day it was. I've never been so proud of my country as I was yesterday.

But now? It's a new day already here where I am, and time to buckle down and get to work. Live the dream. Make the change. Together.

Dusty said...

I am still grinning. ;)

Marc said...

Loved Aretha's hat. Leave it to the grande dame of the Motor City to take the stage with a bow as big as a hubcap!!

Kay said...

I am so jealous! I had to watch it on the sly in my cubicle with one ear bud in and one keeping track of the co-workers. And then right before the swearing in hulu.com decided to just pause and sit there for ten minutes showing me nothing!

It was amazing though (catching it later on the news) and I am so so so hopeful right now!