Sometimes the lyrics of a U2 song fit the mood perfectly.
Throughout the saga that is and was Barack Obama's campaign for the White House, I posted pieces on my hopes, fears, and worries regarding his candidacy. I am a "completist" by nature. Fittingly, I come full circle in my reflections on Barack Obama's inauguration.
In life, perfect moments are by definition quite rare. God knows this country, all of us, will face a trying road ahead. For now, before we return to the difficult work of correcting our wayward ship and steering her back on course, let's take a moment to reflect on our collective greatness and goodness. We are a country of misfit tax evaders, cast off religious zealots, discarded immigrants and emigres, greedy capitalists, iron jawed suffragettes, folks barred by law from being citizens, the cousins and children of zapatistas, victims of history who have made this our home, folks whose land was stolen from under them, and Creoles of the Middle Passage who created the West and modernity. In total: people who never stopped looking forward despite, or maybe even because of, the obstacles placed before them. Because of them, I can say with confidence and pride, "God bless America." We are a motley crew. Sometimes, we get it right as much because of ourselves as despite ourselves. Accordingly, today was one of those great days where we as a people show that we have more than a few surprises left in us, and thus lessons still, to teach the world.
Some thoughts--counter intuitive, surprising, and expected:
The Good: I am happy about the chance to be mad at, upset at, and disappointed in, Barack Obama. Why? because he is only a Black man who happens to be President, and to be honest, I thought I would never be able to write such a thing in my lifetime.
The Satisfying: Complaining about Barack Obama and raking him over the coals for his decisions, decisions which inevitably may not satisfy me or you. Also, watching the pundits and talk radio crowd second guess him. Why? because that is business as usual for President of the United States.
The Joyous: Liberal disappointment and Conservative damnation. Why? politics is like sausage in that you never want to see how it is made, yet one wants to enjoy and benefit from it. If President Barack Obama can disappoint the Left and provoke the Right, I know he is at least doing half of what he needs to do to be MY president.
The Good: The intangible mundanes of life, those basic but most existential of things...a Black man being called and hailed as "Mr. President!" His riding in Air Force One, Marines saluting him, Black children playing in the White House (what a turn of phrase, a wording almost poetic by virtue of its juxtapositioned irony), people not White sleeping at1600 Pennsylvania Avenue--moreover, Black people as President and First Lady, and not "just" as servants, employees, or slaves.
The Satisfying: Watching Barack Obama handle a crisis with deftness, grace, and towards a satisfying resolution. Why? Because that is what Presidents of the United States do.
The Joyous: Watching Barack Obama's missteps and mistakes. Why? Because that is what Presidents of the United States do.
The Good: Dr. King; Malcolm X; W.E.B. Du Bois; Frederick Douglas; Sojourner Truth; Sister Harriet; Jon Brown; James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner; Rosa Parks; A Philip Randolph; the little girls in that church house in Birmingham; Thurgood Marshall; and those anonymous but never forgotten many millions gone and lost to history who never stopped struggling for freedom, smiling down from heaven on Barack Obama-a Black American-as he took the oath as 44th President of the United States.
The Satisfying: Reading newspaper editorial pages and online blogs, watching the talking heads in the mainstream media, and listening to talk radio on the Left and Right as they criticize Barack Obama. Why? Because they are treating him like any other President of these United States. Becoming President isn't a pass. Rather, it paints a target on the president's forehead. I will revel in watching Barack Obama contend with the mudslinging and yellow journalism that plagued his predecessors because less than fair play, dirty pool, and below the belt politics are perhaps the true fruits and obligations of liberty. President Obama, I eagerly await watching how you handle these challenges, challenges which have awaited all of your predecessors.
The Joyous: Watching Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and those other Right-Wing ideologues and their automatons, in less than subdued rage, as they spew their vitriol, hate, and confused, often incoherent, shotgun banter. I have waited oh so long for this moment and am anticipating how Barack Obama will respond to these miscreants. I know he will outmaneuver and sidestep the "Greater Opposition Party," but I also know that this cabal of frothing at the mouth, enraged, often confused and irrational, Right-wingers will keep Obama on his toes. Indeed, what is the sound of one hand clapping in the wind? I hope that the Right wing in this country soon discovers the answer to this classic question.
The Fun: Hypothesizing about how those lap dog Black conservatives, with their schizophrenic hand ringing and their internal doubts and recriminations, sad souls plagued by questions such as, "Am I black enough?" "How can I be more black?" "How can I be the 'good' black?" and "How can I NOT be Barack Obama?" will struggle through the next four years.
The Wondrous: Now, with Barack Obama's victory a whole generation of kids, brown, black, yellow, red, and Other, can now say, "I can be President!" With Barack Obama's victory, those thoughts won't be the stuff of impossible fantasy.
The Amazing and Long Overdue: For the Tuskegee Airmen; the Red Ball Express; the Marines of Mumford Point; the Buffalo Soldiers; the 54th Massachussets Infantry, and many others, they can now say, "mission accomplished!"