It has been 6 days since our 44th president took the oath of office and my feet are still cold. I was one of the 2 million folks who braved the elements to attend this historic occasion. I have been to a Presidential Inauguration before, so I knew full well going in that it would not be an E ticket ride.
I did it anyway.
I expected cold and confusion and craziness and I got it in spades. I knew what I was in for. I did it anyway. (That being said I will tell you that the "tunnel of doom" experience was a new level of Inaugural hell. Lordy what a mess! I'll bet even old "water board 'em" Gonzales would call that torture.)
I did it anyway.
I am not exactly the hearty type. My idea of camping is a weekend at San Yisidro Ranch. I am willing to hike a mile or two as long as there is a blow dryer and a four star restaurant at the end of the trail. So it was not for my personal pleasure that I trudged for three hours plus to find my seat. I would have been absolutely content to view the proceedings on the television ... Bloody Mary in one hand, Kleenex in the other, weeping and texting and actually seeing the damned thing. For the record my seat in the "Orange" section was artfully placed behind a two story scaffold. I had a clear view of the backsides of a half a dozen cameramen. (Note to said cameramen, those backsides were substantial, as in perhaps it is time to put down the butter knife... substantial.)
I did not complain, nor did I hear many grumbles from the folks around me. I do not know whether this was due to hunger and hypothermia or to our good natures, but, one thing is certain... those better angels we have been hearing about were working overtime that day. Anyone who was there for the fun of it quickly learned that there was not much fun to be had, and as for witnessing history?... What does that mean exactly? You cannot hold history in your hand, you cannot wear it or photograph it or talk baby talk to it. History makes itself and mostly it does so after the witnesses have permanently left the scene. History is a gift, welcome or not, to the living from the dead and we do not get to see them unwrap the package.
I was not there for the ceremony (note to Justice Roberts.. you are not good at this kind of thing). I was not there for the pre-recorded Yo Yo Ma. I was definitely not there for the poem. (What the hell kind of poem was that?) The folks around me were likewise underwhelmed by the pageantry. From what I could tell most of us were there for one reason. We were there to show the world that we believe in the man and his message. It was just another extraordinary day in the life, of an extraordinary Democracy. If the 2 million people I stood with that day are any measure, then America may be down, but we are not out. The sight lines for the swearing in may have been terrible, but the sight of 2 million folks behind me in a sea of solidarity was worth every step and every shudder. It was worth every uncomfortable minute of the 7 hours that I was out there.
In popular psych speak we are told repeatedly that "showing up is half the battle." If this is true, then the forces of evil had best beware, because we are "showing up" and we will fight you en masse against any and all odds.
If I were you Mr. Limbaugh and Mr. Boehner, I would be getting nervous right about now. We have the frozen feet and the footage to prove it. Seems that 80-year-old black ladies and skinny white girls and families with young children and teenagers and twenty somethings and Rick Warren and Reverend Lowery and Usher and Josh Groban and the Gay Men's Chorus and Planned Parenthood and the League of Conservation Voters and the Union of Concerned Scientists and The Boss and will.i.am and the indefatigable Arianna Huffington and my mom and a lot of other people's moms and dads have come together. We are united and we want you to know that.
We are with President Obama and we will stand with him for as long as it takes. We will stand with him out in the cold. We will show up if it means walking shoulder to shoulder in a darkened tunnel. We will keep walking together in peace even if we are scared and cold and hungry and tired and the closeness has begun to fray our nerves. We are millions strong and there may be miles to go before we see the light, but, we will press on. We will show up, because we are done with you and if you are smart you will pack it in and take your chances with history. We are absolutely aware of how much is at stake and how hard this will be and we know full well that it will not be fun.
We will do it anyway.