Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What The Inauguration Means To Me

Talking Points Memo has asked folks to email them their thoughts on the inauguration and what it means to them. But rather than do that, I figured, "Hey, I have a blog! Why don't I write stuff there?"

I like to think myself a cynic, but compared to some of my friends (Hi, Nate!) I'm a starry-eyed optimist. And the truth is, Barack Obama really gets to that optimistic side of me. I teared up watching U2 singing at an over-produced concert in Washington, D.C., being broadcast on HBO.

And here's the thing: It's not what the inauguration means to me, really. It's what I think it means for my kids. For six years, ever since we knew Katy was coming, I've been watching as the world got worse and worse. As the Bush Administration made America less and less a country I wanted to be a part of, much less bequeath to my child in the future. It seemed like the American dream of leaving a country where my child could do better than I had was not going to be possible. Worse, it seemed like even a modified, scaled-down version of the dream, leaving America as good as it was when I was growing up, wasn't going to be possible.

Sunday night, as Katy was watching part of the pre-Inaugural celebration with me, and Martin Luther King III came out, she told me about Martin Luther King Jr., who they had been learning about in school. I got the five-year-old version of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks. And Katy gets it, better than I did at her age... they described it in kid terms, but she knows that he "fought with words, not fists" and she knows that Rosa Parks "got arrested because she wouldn't give up her seat to a white man," but as a five-year-old, the significance of these things doesn't quite sink in. But perhaps more importantly, when we talked about judging people based on who they are, not the color of their skin? She honestly had trouble comprehending what I was talking about. My kid's pretty smart, but this whole notion of judging someone based on their skin color? She doesn't get it. Racism is a completely foreign concept to her.

Now I know part of that is a childish innocence, but I also know that because of the powerful message that Barack Obama's inauguration sends out, that more and more kids are going to see that the racists are the minority. They're the crazy ones.

And that's what Barack Obama's inauguration means to me. When I was in the minority who didn't want George W. Bush as President in 2000, and even worse, in 2004, I started to feel like my country had gone completely insane. Suddenly the majority were the crazy ones. (In the spirit of unity that Obama is trying to encourage, I apologize for any offense this gives my Republican readers (Hi, Chris!), but in the spirit of honesty, voting for Bush in 2004, especially in hindsight, has got to be categorized at the least as foolish act, right?) But now, though there are plenty of crazies out there trying to recruit for their white supremacist movements, trying to enforce their religious beliefs on the whole world or just trying to make a buck by playing to our own worst natures, the majority is on the side of hope. The large majority has a favorable opinion of our new President, most have realistic expectations about what he can accomplish but also hope that he can accomplish unrealistic goals.

And for every annoyance, both minor (emailer tech issues) and major (Diamond deciding to try and strangle the indie comics market), that has occurred in the last few days, I can't help but find a smile on my face. Because for the first time in eight years, it feels like sanity, intelligence and hope has won out over insanity, ignorance and self-interest.

1 comment:

Chris Hunter said...

LOL! No offense here, Randy!

But I thought that I mentioned to you that the first time that I ever voted was 2004 and, guess what?

I wasn't for Bush. I voted for Kerry. I was so fed up with Bush by that point that ANYONE would have been a better choice, in my eyes.

Honestly, I'm looking forward to an Obama presidency. I'm optimistic about it. I'm genuinely interested in what his ideas are and what his plans are. I don't think that he has one single small task to accomplish; he has major problems to address in almost every area, but I'm optimistic.

Here's to four great years!