In 2004, I wasn’t very interested in politics. I’m still not, I should add, but then? Much less so. But I watched the speeches and other events out of duty. It only makes sense to be informed – to, dare I say, pay attention.
So there I was the day the Democratic National Convention was aired on tv, July 27, probably bored solid and puttering at other things while people talked and talked and … then. And then. A young black man took the podium. It took me months for his name to fix itself in my memory for some reason. It was the keynote speech for the convention, and it blew me away. (Wikipedia says that the speech was not carried by commercial broadcast networks – I must have had PBS on?) There has been such a dearth of eloquence in American politics for so, so long that this speech had me utterly enthralled. “Magnificent” is not a word that can be used very often about … anything in these sad and pitiful days. That was a magnificent speech.
Again, from Wikipedia: “Following the speech political commentator Chris Matthews rightly predicted ‘I just saw the first black president'”. Me too. I would have voted for him then and there – or at least that November.
And when he did run four years later, I was elated. There has never been a candidate who made me diverge from the “not voting for A, but against B”, until Barack Obama. I was for him. His is still the only campaign I have ever contributed to. (My bumper sticker mysteriously disappeared while I was working for that rabidly Republican boss I’ve mentioned before; it could have been natural causes, but I still think it was murdered.)
Election night was beautiful. Inauguration Day was beautiful. (Both times.)
I forget which campaign used the question “Are you better off now than you were four years ago” as a catchphrase. The answer to that in that case was meant to be “no, so elect me”, of course. So – am I? Maybe. In some ways. The ways in which I am not have nothing to do with the politics of the nation. The country is better. Look at the numbers – gas prices, while edging up, are still three-fifths of what they were eight years ago. Unemployment rose – but then plummeted. Despite the evisceration by Republicans, the Affordable Care Act is valuable. We are (relatively) at peace; we have regained respect throughout the world; there has not been even a whiff of scandal relating to Barack Obama, his wife, his children, his vice president… No one vomited on any foreign dignitaries, or shot any elderly lawyers, or was known to be sleeping with anyone they oughtn’t to. The biggest controversy I remember was over whether the dog the family adopted was really nonallergenic. (Spoiler alert: it’s not.) Barack Obama’s effectiveness was blocked at every step by the Republican majority – maybe that’s the scandal that I should point to – but he has done everything possible, and maybe a bit more.
After – what, sixteen years of being embarrassed by my president, I have had eight years in which I could be proud. He’s young and attractive. He’s funny. He’s smart – no, he’s flaming brilliant. He’s classy – he and his family exude effortless class. We have had the chance to rebuild relationships with the world, with a leader other countries respect and like. Perfect? No. But good. Really good.
All of that is about to disappear with a flushing noise. Obama’s speeches make me cry because he moves me, and makes me proud. The new president’s speeches make me cry for … other reasons.
I want to fling myself at the legs of Obama – any Obama – and cling to them – don’t leave us… This week every ounce of class is leaving the White House.
God, I’m going to miss them. Miss him.
I am at work right now (this post is scheduled). I’m wearing all black. I’d be wearing an armband if I thought anyone would have a clue what it meant. I am not crying. I’m not. I probably have earphones firmly stuck deep in my ears and am probably listening to … I don’t know, I’ll find something comforting. I’ll probably stay late. After, I will go and see my mom. Then I will spring for something fattening and delicious and comforting for dinner. I will go home and not put the tv on. Not even for Jeopardy. If I get online I will open only one tab, for Hulu or Amazon or something, and watch … something comforting. Star Trek. Doctor Who. Oh! The Princess Bride. I will try to do something creative – draw or write or something. I am going nowhere near Twitter or Facebook; the moratorium on them and tv will be for the whole weekend, at least; I’ve successfully managed to avoid the news for the most part since November 8, and intend to continue that, except for local weather.
I’ve been listening to the wonderful, loopy, supportive Says Who? podcast, and they asked people to call in to say what they’ll be doing instead of watching the … proceedings, and there were a lot of people talking about heading for the marches and protests today and tomorrow. And I started to wonder about past inaugurations, so I did a search. Representative quote: “When Obama took office, the few protests surrounding his swearing-in were directed mainly at outgoing President George W. Bush.” I’m looking forward to learning how significant this week’s protests are.
OK. Time to pull up my socks and … face the new reality. I need to do something good with this year; I’m looking at art classes, but I need to find a way to be useful. And, like Maureen of “Says Who?”, maybe look at some survival manuals. Get that passport.
We have survived bad and embarrassing presidents before. We have. And we can do it again.
Yes we can.