What They Didn’t Tell You About the Inauguration

Well, it’s been a long sabbatical from blogging.  Work on the election got too crazy and despite all the voice (singular tense on purpose) clammoring for my words of wisdom, I couldn’t tend to my blog.  And then there was the actual break after the election, and then there was the few months of total inertia.  The only thing I worked on was not getting a sun burn and turning back into a human being. 

So yes, I was one of the lucky millions who witnessed history in DC last week.  Let me tell you, being a witness to history is not for the weak.  Regardless of where you were from January 18th – 21st, you couldn’t help but absorb a minimum of 12o hours of non-news news, hearing commentary on the outfits, the speeches, and the crowds. 

Here are some stories from the ground:

I trudged to the Metro at 6 am on inauguration day.  The sun wasn’t fully up yet but I didn’t have to worry about safety.  The sidewalks were full of comrades making the same trek.  Amidst the chaos and clausterphobic crowds, no one seemed to forget why we had all assembled. 

The train platforms were at capacity and it took more than 15 minutes just to exit at the Capitol South Metro stop — one of the designated stops near the swearing in.  One of the Metro employees guided the crowd over the p.a. system.  She repeated the mantra, “Keep it movin… keep it movin…through the gate!’  The crowd responded by shouting, “Yes we can!  Yes we can, get through the gate!”  That was occassionally switched up with shouting, “O-ba-ma” over and over.  It was hard to discern the difference between a crowd in the subway and an Obama rally.

Ironically, though this campaign, this movement, whatever you want to call it, calls for equality and change – certainly won’t affect one thing – not all are to be treated equally when it comes to a political event.  Working in national politics teaches you to always find the VIP tickets.  And know that there are VIP tickets – and then there is the super VIP tickets.  On opening ceremony, my friends and I gleefully laughed at the long lines we dodged when we broke off from the main crowds to go to the ticketed area.  Then we saw our yellow tickets got us only so far.  Alas, we needed the blue tickets. 

I was lucky not to have had the dreaded purple ticket for inauguration.  My friends and I got into the orange section.  But between the mammoth media risers and the Capitol’s marble wall around the steps blocking us, we really saw the inauguration like the folks sitting warmly in their living rooms – on a jumbo tron.  However, we did get to appreciate feeling the crisp – really crisp air.  We sang, “na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey goodbye!’ as Bush came walking out.  We laughed and cried together and embraced total strangers.  And I found it amusing that we spoke about our plans for next time.  “In 2012, I’m getting better seats,” one woman stated matter-of-factly.  No one seemed to question that we would all be celebrating again in 4 years.

The crowd making its way off the mall saw the FORMER President Bush get into his getaway helicopter and we cheered and clapped at his departure.  I wonder what he made of that.  He is so unaccustomed to the sound of cheering and clapping. 

And then there were the galas.  Everyone is going to tell you how amazing they are.  Of course the media covers the best parts.  Well, I’m here to tell you the truth:  First of all, wearing a flimsy dress and open toed shoes in 20 degrees is ridiculous.  The traffic was so bad that my friend and I hopped into a bicycle ric shaw to get to the Convention Center.  That was quite an adventure!  And once there, I don’t know, maybe I’m not a gala person, but I would be particularly upset if I had paid the $150+ to be there (again, in the political scene – one never pays for tickets!  It’s all about the who-you-know hustle).  There was a cash bar with overpriced drinks, the food was good enough to fill you if you needed it, but it was rather ordinary cheese cubes, crudite, and a few pastas.  And the Obamas and Bidens swung by for about 15 minutes each.  That was preceeded by standing in crushing, hot crowds for 30 minutes waiting for the photo moment.  The night was capped off with an over hour wait in the freezing cold outside – again, remember, in flimsy dress and open-toed shoes, for a taxi.  Now I don’t tell you this really to complain.  I am telling you that, in my opinion, you didn’t miss much when it came to the evening’s events. 

The overall feeling I got from last week was that this is our inauguration.  The clock doesn’t start just on President Obama’s agenda.  This is a time for all of us to act; engage; shape our destiny.  When I really think about it — the amount of work is daunting.  What this inauguration signifies is the chance to work.  This is the chance to affect change.  I am thrilled to be daunted.

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1 Comment

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One response to “What They Didn’t Tell You About the Inauguration

  1. David H.

    Thanks for returning to your blog. (I’ll take credit for being the one who encouraged you whether or not it’s true.)

    I’m sorry I missed the inauguration. My short time living in the DC area (1988-90) isn’t exactly on my short list of great political moments in US history but I like to look on the bright side. 41 was in office back then; a recession was about to rage on; a war in Iraq was about to start; I was an organizer/administrator for a school support staff union, was getting over another badly run presidential election, was sitting for law school entrance exams, but got to march around almost every weekend on lots of important issues of those days (my favorite weekend gig was volunteering to open hate mail addressed to NARAL to cull the true maniacs from the simply crazy). I had lots of energy and lots of optimism back then. This young guy from Hawaii gave me some of that energy back. I don’t think I am especially unique so I’ll hazard a guess that he’ll get lots of help to fix dozens of problems that have eluded even good folks like Bill and Hillary. Keep writing, Union Maiden.

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