One out of every 150 Americans was there in Washington DC yesterday, January 20, 2009. Nothing before yesterday had ever seen such a press of humanity that demonstrated on Tuesday. So many grand words have been spoken or written about President Barack Obama’s inauguration, that we dare not add anything mediocre.
We had risen yesterday in anticipation, and turned on the tube early to watch history and try to be part of it. The crowds were what amazed me. Seeing faces with tears rolling down glad cheeks were what got me the most. Watching so many young Americans happy and excited, seeing so many African-Americans beaming, and viewing the plain diversity of the crowd made us all gasp with pride. The relentless chants of “Obama, Obama!” echoed my shouts into the night air the evening he was elected. It’s such a great name to chant or yell – the 3 simple syllables allow an unusual ease of raised voice.
The people had spoken on November 4th and the fruit of their message had taken office this day, two and a half months later. By noon, we had a new president, a man half Kenyan and half Kansan. A man whose father would not have been served in downtown Washington 60 years ago, as his son would say. A man who hardly spoke the word ‘race’ in his speech for all to hear, but a man whose appearance on the stage of history was all too obvious to ignore.
The Bush nightmare was finally over. A new era has begun. The wheeling out of Dick Cheney was symbolic of an administration that was crippled itself and who had attempted to cripple the country. His last appearance as Dr. Strangelove seemed strangely true to form. Bush seemed overwhelmed with it all, with the boos, with the mass of Americans waiting for him to leave. As his helicopter rose over the crowd on his final journey, the camera panned across a large white banner with black letters: “Bush – get da hell out!”
With moist eyes much of the day, the vindication of knowing that we supported Obama from the very beginning is privately experienced. Against fellow progressives who couldn’t let themselves believe the country had changed that much, against left-wing zealots who believed Bush would declare martial law and never let it happen, against those who liked him but felt “they” would never allow him to live and take his seat, against traditional Democratic politicos who dismissed the campaign of a political-unknown Black man, against right-wing pundits whose prejudices kept them from understanding how the ground beneath them had shifted dramatically, we supported him. His was the strongest campaign against the Iraq war. Obama’s basic instinct of opposition to the illegal occupation of that country gave him his early support among the progressive corners of America – including ours.
And American followed him. The people put him on that stage, and came to witness him take charge. This is what democracy looks like.