Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

America awakens to hope,
promise as long national
nightmare ends

Well, maybe that’s premature. You hope the nightmare is at least beginning to end. For the mess that Barack Obama inherited just past noon today is not going to disappear anytime soon.

But as Obama observed in his inaugural speech before a crowd that could have been the largest ever assembled on the planet, the ground underfoot surely has shifted. You could sense, if not literally feel, the earth move.

Watching George W. Bush & Co. stride down the back steps of the Capitol to the waiting helicopter, and the Strangelovian image of Dick Cheney in a wheelchair – putting a large glove on his hand to complete the picture – in their departure from the world stage was stunning.

For all the joy experienced by the uncountable hundreds of thousands who endured the cold to watch the inauguration from the packed National Mall facing the elevated stage below the Capitol, my living room was a great place to witness history, too, on a wide-screen, high-def TV.

It’s a tradition, if a far cry from the tiny black-and-white TV on which I watched the first inauguration I can sort of remember – that of Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953. I recall we were sent home early from school for the occasion; I was in second grade then, at Baltimore’s old Louisa May Alcott School No. 59. I can’t really remember Eisenhower taking the oath, but I at least have the dim memory of watching the parade.

How much, after all, does one remember from being a 7-year-old sitting on the floor in front of a fuzzy, low-def, small-screen TV. But there’s just enough there to make the pomp and pageantry seem familiar and comforting, and now all the more powerful emotionally when the inauguration represents so clearly a fork in the road of history.

America is continuing its journey. A fork is not a right turn, or a left. It is a bearing of direction, a shift.

But this fork seems wider than others.

There’s no map, no way to see ahead – only hope that we’re finally on the right path.

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