I had planned to go to Washington for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. But then the flu happened, and I decided it would be wiser to stay home than to take the bus to DC from Jersey and stand outside for who knows how many hours, coughing away in the winter weather.
Bummer! It's not as if I go to inaugurations every year. In fact, this was the first inauguration I had ever planned to attend, and it wasn't even my idea. My cousin -- a dedicated Obama supporter -- had invited me to come along. We didn't have tickets, of course. We were going to stay in a hostel, get up at 4 a.m. and make our way to the concourse. My 60-something "cuz" did this the first time Obama won, and she was bound and determined to do it again.
But when I called to tell her I was sick she decided to cancel her trip, too. After all, we're not kids any more, and we thought we'd better not press our luck.
As I watched the inauguration on my tiny kitchen TV, I kept thinking of my dad -- a devoted Republican back in Nixon's day. My cousin's dad was also a Republican, and both men were strong supporters of the Republican Party. I'm quite sure -- had they lived to see this past election -- they'd have been standing squarely behind Mitt Romney. Neither man would have been particularly pleased to learn that their aging daughters were planning a rendezvous in Washington to watch the second swearing in of a Democrat named Barack Hussein Obama.
Or would they?
There's a story about my dad that I love to tell and I always think of it when the contentiousness between Democrats and Republicans is on the rise. And I thought of it during Obama's speech when he kept emphasizing the need for "togetherness."
Way back when, in my teenage years, there was a thing called the Vietnam War. My dad had supported the war, and didn't second guess the decisions that Nixon made to escalate our involvement. But when the Kent State massacre happened and college students who were demonstrating peacefully (or simply walking across campus) were shot and killed my father helped me pen a horrified protest letter to our local newspaper. Nor did he stand in my way when I went to march in a local peace rally.
Even though emotions ran high and our opinions were at odds, my father and I held a mutual respect. Sometimes, it seems to me, it's that sense of respect -- even more than cooperation and togetherness -- that is missing between the two parties these days.
I'm quite sure that if my father had been alive today (he died in 1988 at the age of 81) he would have applauded my plan to get to Washington, even if his man hadn't been the winner. And though I don't have any desire to return to the past, I do wish we could conjure up some of that good old-fashioned respect that seems to have been lost in recent years -- that good old-fashioned sense that "I may not agree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it" (or in my dad's case, my right to write a letter to the newspaper about it).
Anyway, I doubt I'll be going to the next inauguration, either. Unless of course, a certain little lady (or actually, any little lady) steps up to the plate. Now that's something to look forward to -- and a reason for two aging cousins to remember to get a flu shot!
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