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Erica Heller

Erica Heller

Posted January 17, 2009 | 11:55 AM (EST)

The Audacity of Hopelessness


It's getting harder these days to be cranky, to stay curmudgeonly.

It can still be done, of course, it's just that right now, it requires much more of an effort than usual. And curmudgeons resent that, in fact, that's an integral part of being a curmudgeon.

But really, who could possibly have taken a single glance at the Obama family earlier this week, touring the Lincoln Memorial, cool and crisp in their in their perfect January toggery, and remained stoic? (Not to mention the fact that only a monster with a heart of steel or stone could not have missed the fact that Michelle looks better than anyone has a right to in a white, quilted down jacket, when even the most lithe and anorectic supermodels look like fullbacks in the same winter wear.)

With the inauguration only a scant 3 days and 6 minutes away, hope is in sight. Relief, regardless of how long it takes and how it arrives, is on the way. It's hard not to beam like human klieg lights, to be so proud of the way we have comported ourselves, sending a fickle fellow back to the Senate and an incompetent couture-grabber back to Alaska, while sending the best of the best on to Washington to do a job that makes the patience of Job (and the feats of Jobs) look like kindergarten.

Still, if I want to experience even a brief frisson of the old rage and familiar, mind-numbing, incomparable despair, I have only to watch Bush's last babbling, Cheney's last televised snooze, and realize and remember how much death and destruction they have caused, the colorful riot of catastrophe they have painted again and again around our country and the world. And the fact that odds are, they and their cronies are not headed for war crimes trials in The Hague but rather to cushy retirements, the lecture circuit, lucrative book deals; memoirs conceived through the clouded, tinted lenses of smarmy narcissism, revisionist history and the most stupendously alarming, stubborn kind of reality-defying psychosis.

Snarky cynic, curmudgeon or not, I find that unbridled glee can indeed coexist with a sickening wave of rage. It's a delicate balance indeed but no, the past eight years can be neither forgotten nor forgiven.

Even if it's unseemly, some things may just be worth staying angry about, even as we pat ourselves on the back, smile broadly at tomorrow and exuberantly turn the page.