Passing the Gauntlet

I've been meaning to write this post for around a week now, but I simply haven't had the time or, strangely, the drive. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to drive across the country and stand with 2 million other people on a day that was literally freezing and watch the 44th president being sworn in. I wanted to communicate the importance that day and that trip had for me, because I feel that as feminists we are called to be politically active on behalf of equality for all. Today, I received an email from an ex-aunt who I have always looked up to. My mother forwarded my mass family email about the inauguration to her, and she felt moved to contact me regarding my involvement. I'd never talked politically with my aunt Carol, and that side of the family has a tendency to be incredibly conservatively Catholic so I was more than a little nervous about what her response would be. Instead of the telling-to I was expecting, I found a brief but poignant email expressing her thanks for my political involvement in my country. As a young woman in the 70's, she was incredibly active in the feminist movement and considers herself lucky to have had the opportunity. She closed by telling me, "Taking action is the only way to show real patriotism and to ensure that our democratic system does not disappear." She is completely right. Like so many others, I felt myself swept up in the tide of the Obamanation excitement, and I quickly felt the anger I had held inside toward our government for the last eight years dissipating. It was an incredible feeling, to listen to the Flobots, "Still Waiting" by Sum41 or "American Idiot" by Greenday and not be filled with righteous anger towards my president and the government allowing him to strip me of my civil liberties and kill innocent civilians in a useless war. I felt liberated. I rejoiced when I heard him promise to close Gitmo within the year, and I almost cried while reading his memorandum to the heads of the executive agencies regarding the Freedom of Information Act and how he expected them to abide by it and utilize new technology to make governmental information more readily accessible for the public. But, I am starting to realize, we shouldn't only become active because he is asking us to. Barack Obama is only one man, and he has the hopes and dreams of everyone who voted for him on his shoulders. With that many expectations, it seems he is bound, inevitably, to fail. But we, the people, are not. Each of us, as an individual, has only ourselves to answer to. President Barack Obama has called each of us to action, I think, because he recognizes this in his presidency. He has so many issues that he has pledged to solve with a bipartisan approach that it would be impossible for him to create all of the radical changes we rallied around when we elected him the next president. We must pick up the gauntlet that has been passed to us and remember the women who came before our time, who are now counting on us not to let our sisters (and brothers) in the struggle down.

With that in mind, I also don't think its a problem to recount the fabulosity (yes, I just made that up, I hope that's ok with ya'll) of the inauguration itself. I was really lucky to be with a group of people who also appreciated the historical significance of our route to the capitol, so we stopped in Little Rock at Little Rock Central High School and in Memphis at the Lorraine Motel. Those two stops, and spending MLK day next to the Reflection Pool at the capitol really help drive the importance of Barack Obama's inauguration home. That night we caught "Look Who's Coming to Dinner" with Sidney Poitier, and in it he says that his white fiance believes that one day their mixed-race children could be president, and I really felt like the entire experience was complete.

It wasn't all serious contemplation, however. There was the 2 million plus crowd on the national mall dancing to Garth Brooks singing "Shout" as the sun came up that morning, and the walk to Virginia that we took along with thousands of others due to closed metro stations to lighten the mood. And, in a crowd of millions crammed into spaces never meant to hold those numbers, there was the excitement and positivity that refused to turn to mob madness or frustrated anger that continually reinforced the good vibes infusing this administration.

I'm going to try to add some pictures if I can. Wish me luck!


Rachel said...

I'm so jealous of you :) thanks so much for sharing this!

Emma said...

I am so glad you wrote about this! I heard you went and was going to ask you to post something if you hadn't.