Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Juxtaposition

My brain seems stuck in two places this morning. "Only two?" you say? Actually, that's a pretty good day for me.

I keep juxtaposing between today and January 20, 1995 with a side blip of the inauguration of Matt Santos final episode of The West Wing.

OK, maybe my brain is in more than two places today after all.

In 1995, I was in my last semester of the extended, five-year undergrad plan at Gordon College. I was spending Winter Break on campus that year to rehearse as co-lead in the Winter Miracle theatre production of Marvin's Room (I rocked, BTW). That January 20th day, I had the TV in my Bromley apartment tuned to Bill Clinton's inauguration, the first important election I'd voted in, the first time I really cared what was going on there or felt invested in the process, the first time I hoped for change. I still can picture the Clintons and Gores on stage after winning the election
whenever I hear Fleetwood Mac's Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow. This was post-Regan and Bush the First and their combined twelve years of Republican rule and before Whitewater, before Lewinsky, before all the disappointment.

I've always been cautious of putting my hope on a single person (matters of faith being the exception to the rule) because it opens up so much capacity for disappointment and failure. I'd rather a public figure exceed my realistic expectations that fail any grandiose, romantic ones. I'm more cynical now than I was in 1995 and yet as I watched the Obama fervor reach its pinnacle today (just shy of trotting out the donkey, as one Facebook contact put it) I recognized the same hopeful enthusiasm I'd felt myself thirteen years earlier.

Now I know it's enough to get me drawn and quartered these days to say that I remain undecided regarding President Obama.
I've neither liked nor voted for George Bush and am oh so glad to see the back of him and his puppeteers. (Did you see Cheney on the dais in a wheelchair? I gather he'd hurt himself on Monday or something, and I wouldn't wish ill on - well - but I still was thinking Aw, poor boo boo and not in a kind way.) Still, I'm waiting to weigh in on the new president. I'm hardly endeared by the prevailing sentiment that making any objection regarding him is as verboten as declaring my pro-choice opinion within the evangelical fundamentalist community of which I'm a part. (Don't scream at me about that now guys, okay? I'm already on an express elevator to hell for plenty of other things; I'm sure that'll be tossed in there too.) All the blogs I read, everywhere I turn, it's Obama ballyhoo. Except in my church community where resigned "well we lost, so let's pray for this guy and see he will do" optimism is tempered with end-of-the-world ballyhoo.

Basically, there's just a lot of ballyhoo going around.

My general middle -of-the-road, talk-to-me-after-the-first-100-days mehness doesn't really fit in either place.

Today I sat in our newly renovated conference room here at the office, surrounded by the smart, creative, clever people I work with who still Get It enough to stand for the national anthem, even if it's only being played on the television. (Our CEO had the tech department set up three different plasma screens in conference rooms and on the promenade so that we could gather and watch the events.) I found myself of those aforementioned two (or three) minds, struck by the echoes of 1995 (though that poet today was no Maya Angelou, that's for sure) while comparing the naive hopes of my 22-year old self with the jaded optimism of today's 30-mphrm-year-old. And it is, without question, a historical event as our first African American president is sworn in. Personally, I long for the day when the skin color or gender of our leader isn't even worth mentioning, but it is exciting to see this event and all that it could yet mean to our country and our leadership occur in my lifetime.

I am hopeful. I really am. (Try not to faint.) I want change for our country and our circumstances and our outlook. My dwindling idealistic core can still be moved by good rhetoric, the subtle, unrecognized deeds and sacrifices of good men and women, and a Maxwell House Christmas commercial. I heard the reprimand of the Bush the Second years in the inauguration speech and the stated intent that this administration will do things differently. I heard a lot of things in that speech, much of which intrigued me but some of which made me go, oh, yippee, and not in a good way. But my shattered rose-colored stained glass lenses are twinkling a bit anyways, possibly in spite of myself.

However, I am now officially in Obama exhaustion, so can we please stop talking about it and just let the man do something before his extreme acolytes start cutting palm fronds?

Go ahead.

Wow me.

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