Monday, January 21, 2013

The Inauguration Made Me Feel Good

Signing on for a second term.
An Inauguration Day is almost always a day full of promise. Depending on your tribe, you're happier or not, but citizens of all stripes, hopefully, still are moved by the renewal of our democratic ideals.

Barack Obama began his second term with a speech that first and foremost spoke to urge and praise, if you will, a united country, spoke to "We, the People." Sure, in parts of it, he pulled no punches and laid down markers for the goals of the second term, including immigration reform, civil rights (including gays, a first in an inauguration speech), climate change, and, surprisingly, support for entitlements.

It was easier for me to feel good because Barack Obama, though essentially a centrist politician, is still representative of progressivism and basic liberal values. His willingness to articulate his opposition to the anti-science, anti-inclusive elements on the right was uplifting. Maybe we can believe he'll fight harder for liberal values. We can only hope.

This day, though, it's easier to feel that hope, that promise. Let's hope it lasts, at least, well, longer than today.

Kelly Clarkson's smile summed up the feelings of the day.

Update. Finding Richard Blanco's inaugural poem online, I thought I'd reprint it here, just in case you didn't find it yourself. It's grand and delicate in its reach and sweeps through and beyond our every-days and dreams. It was so very good for today:

One Today

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.

My face, your face, millions of faces in morning's mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.

All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the "I have a dream" we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won't explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.

One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father's cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.

The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day's gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.

Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello, shalom,
buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me—in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.

One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn't give what you wanted.

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together.

Very well done. And so were the songs, from the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir to James Taylor, Kelly Clarkson, and Beyoncé. All American voices, ringing clear and true, for today.

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