But yes, I took Tuesday off to witness the peaceful exchange of power in America, and honestly that ritual is always an extraordinary thing. In years past, sometimes, perhaps an extraordinarily boring thing, but still.
I stepped off my front porch in the foggy, frosty pre-dawn hours and settled my stars-and-stripes into the flag bracket on the front of the house, because my patriotism is my privilege. Even when I have disagreed with and despaired of my country's politics, I have flown a flag. That flag is mine; that flag belongs still more to the thousands upon thousands of men and women who have died to protect the ideals it represents. I also recognize that the flag is only a symbol, a swatch of fabric I picked up at the Home Depot, in a package stamped with an eagle. I will defend to the death your right to burn that flag, and I will proudly suspend it from my home on those days when I feel brimful of pride and hope and renewed faith in this remarkable experiment of a nation I've grown up in.
When the sun fully came up, I saw that the neighbors across the street had put out their flag, too. We have been known to get competitive with our Christmas-light-stringing, so this sight tickled me. We're all in this together.
But I'm getting off track. Or am I? Mom came down from Mukilteo, and we threw the coffeemaker into hyperdrive and stared reverently, ecstatically at the television for three hours. We tittered at Dick Cheney being wheeled around like a supervillain, because, okay, we're a little mean. (He is, on the whole, much meaner; Mom and I have never, for example, shot any friends in the face.) We adored those beautiful, composed little girls--Malia, your Flickr pool is going to be amaaaaaayyzing. We kowtowed our unworthiness to the marvel that was Aretha Franklin's hat, because damn, that was A SERIOUS HAT. And when they asked the attendees to rise for the oath, Mom and I stood up. Like dopes, we stood in front of my living-room sofa, irritating the cat with our nth rearrangement of her favorite fleece blankie, and we held our breath and hung onto each other and wept and laughed and believed in change, for a minute, for a week, and maybe for eight long years, we hoped. We hope.
And then we went out for pancakes.
* * * * *
I know he will disappoint me, eventually, sooner than later. He'll let me or you or us down, he'll make a small mistake or a huge one. He'll get mired in something ugly and unmanageable, because politics is a dirty business and President Obama, like any president, is just a man. Human, falliable. I've let myself down in at least ten small ways since Tuesday alone, and like everyone I groan and smack my forehead and consider where I might lay the blame...and then I get up the next morning and face the blank slate of potentially doing it all over again, some good, some ill. But the grace period is hanging tough, so far. I admit it: each time I hear the phrase "President Obama" on the nightly newscast, or see it in print, or type it myself like I just did twice, I get a little tingle. Yep! It's still true! That totally HAPPENED! To see him sitting behind that desk; to hear him moving forward on closing Gitmo and lifting the global gag rule; to read his official statement in Salon yesterday:
"On the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we are reminded that this decision not only protects women’s health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose.
While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue, no matter what our views, we are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion, and support women and families in the choices they make. To accomplish these goals, we must work to find common ground to expand access to affordable contraception, accurate health information, and preventative services.
On this anniversary, we must also recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights and opportunities as our sons: the chance to attain a world-class education; to have fulfilling careers in any industry; to be treated fairly and paid equally for their work; and to have no limits on their dreams. That is what I want for women everywhere."
Well. I am going to coast on this for a while, I am. Godspeed, Mr. President.