About Today -- A Walk on the Moon

Today, I skimmed back and forth between working and catching what I could of the inauguration coverage.

I managed to be there for the live coverage of the swearing in, and President Obama's Inaugural Address.

I was awed by the sheer mass of humanity on the Mall.

I was moved by the music, and even more by the cut-aways to people in the audience -- their faces streaked with tears of joy, their eyes searching hungrily for external signs that the hope they hold inside is justified, and their faces relaxing, brows smoothing out, as they seemed to have found those signs.

I watched what I could of the parade, in between clients (cuz I'm a sucker for a marching band -- plus, I wanted to see the queers tooting their horns -- no pun intended).

As I watched, I had the same sense that I had on Election Day 2008 -- a strange mixture of solemnity and giddiness as I witnessed something historic -- something being logged into a history that I would want to claim.

This feeling is not entirely unfamiliar, although it seems like a long time since I last experienced it.

I felt something like it as I stared into my television set to see the first moon walk, and President Nixon announcing the end of the Vietnam War, and Nelson Mandela walking out of prison, and the Berlin Wall being knocked down.

Still, today felt different, somehow.

I should note that my giddy/solemn sensation of today has a nasty cousin, too -- a feeling of similar solemnity, but devoid of all giddiness -- a response that's all sinking stomach and aching heart.

I felt that the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and again, when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, and yet again, when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, and after the massacres at Kent State and Tienanmen Square, and when the first Bush authorized "Operation Desert Storm", and on 9/11/01, and when the second Bush authorized "Operation Iraqi Freedom", and as I watched thousands of people abandoned in the aftermath of Katrina.

On those days, too, staring into my television, I knew that I was watching something that was"historic" -- but as part of a history that I emphatically did not want.

Yet today seemed something more than a simple antithesis of that "nasty cousin"-ish feeling.

I kept reaching, all day, for a clear understanding of what I was feeling -- I searched for it in the confused sensations that flirted around the edges of my heart and mind as I watched the inaugural festivities.

I searched for it in the expressions that lingered on the faces of joyous, tearful, boisterous crowds, and in my own confused and tender caution as I watched Michelle and Barack Obama step out of the presidential limousine during the parade. ("No! Be careful!" my inner mother-hen whispered, and then, a moment later, my inner activist cried: "Yes! Be Unafraid!")

I kept crawling around in my own brain and heart and body all day, trying to put my finger on the exact "difference" that I felt, until I saw this clip in the online coverage I was watching (forgive any commercials, please -- I'm not in control of that, but I wanted you to see the vid):



That's when I knew what was so different for me today.

Barack Obama's presidency does not erase the agony of Myrlie Evers-Williams' loss of her husband Medgar, or the tragedy of our collective loss of her husband as a powerful, committed voice against racism and discrimination of all types.

Barack Obama's presidency does not remove the grueling pain of daily discrimination that Medgar, Myrlie, their children, grandchildren, and countless other people of color have faced in the 45 years since Medgar's murder -- much less mitigate the suffering that centuries of abuse, oppression, and discrimination have perpetrated upon people of color during the history of this nation.

Barack Obama's presidency does not end the ongoing reality of racism and the toxicity of its impact on our nation.

But it does erase, remove, and end this:

The notion that the agony, pain, and toxicity that is racism is inevitable in our country.

Racism does not have to exist. It is not "natural" to human beings, nor is it necessary to society. When people of all colors share power and responsibility, nations not only do not crumble -- they rise, and celebrate, and grow stronger.

Myrlie and Medgar Evers knew this. I knew this. Mostly likely, if you're reading this blog, you knew this.

But today, in the United States of America, Barack Obama demonstrated this.

Today is not the end of racism in the United States, but I honestly believe that it is the beginning of a new era in the process of eradicating racism in the United States, because today, a template is set and a precedent created -- it is now possible, beyond any argument, for a person whose skin is not "white" to hold the most powerful office in our land.

That is what was different for me today.

When I think back on the other times I had that "giddy-solemn-historic" feeling, only the moon-walk begins to parallel it -- wars have been ended before, and walls knocked down -- but to walk on the Moon?

A single footprint on the Moon means that anything is possible.

(Full Disclosure: Yes, I have complaints with Barack Obama and his campaign/transition teams. Yes, I'm not satisfied with Obama's dealings with queers and their issues. And finally -- Yes, I am an incredibly complicated being who is capable of simultaneously experiencing deep disappointment about discrimination that is peculiar to my situation while experiencing profound joy as I watch my brothers and sisters who are discriminated against for a different, equally fucked-up, reason rejoice in a breakthrough in the particular area of oppression that has kept them down, and capable of understanding that "their" victory is "my" victory, because -- you know -- they are my sisters, and my brothers -- they are ME.)

Posted byPortlyDyke at 8:47 PM  

3 comments:

Chally said... January 21, 2009 at 1:11 AM  

Oh, well said.

Philip Barron said... January 21, 2009 at 8:31 AM  

That was brilliant, Carol. You really captured the whole of it. Cross-post to Shakes, maybe?

pidomon said... January 21, 2009 at 5:41 PM  

wow just wow

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