1/20/09 Inauguration Day – Part 3
So it’s 9:15 and the gates are opened at last. National Guard troops on the other side. Full cammy outfits, those cool berets, they all look like college kids or Costco employees. But they’re in charge and it’s time to listen. The crowd becomes a giant ketchup bottle, squeezing out 8 folks at a time before the squeezing stops. Amazing. Thousands of people pushing and only 8 at a time are going through. Magic. We all have numerous layers on so asking us to open our jackets is kind of absurd. There’s no pat down, they barely go through the backpacks. They ask us to take out any metal, anything with tin foil, and then we’re through aome sort of metal detection thing and handed back our keys and belts and metallic objects. All very cursory. Then I realize why – we’re going to be so far from Obama and the ticketed dignitaries so even if we did have something dangerous, WE’D ONLY BLOW UP EACH OTHER. REGULAR CITIZENS, EVERYDAY PEOPLE. ACCEPTABLE LOSSES. I started feeling like the folks killed by those drone missile we have up over Waziristan. We claimm to maybe perhaps to have gotten an Al Qaeda operative but in doing so we also killed 5 kids and 4 women and a farmer and a goatherd and the local poppy grower. I feel like them. I think we need to stop using drone missiles and killing people we’re not sure we should be killing to maybe kill the one person we want to kill. I think the problem is WANTING TO KILL ANYONE. THAT’S REVENGE AND THAT’S THE PROBLEM IN THE MIDDLE EAST IN A NUTSHELL. If we can get past revenge and towards diplomacy and talking and reconciliation, hey, who knows, we may one day beat our drone missiles into plowshares. And at this point, plowshares are better than shares of Intel or Microsoft.
Anyway, back to DC. Through the National Guard checkpoint. Oh, and while were’ talking about the Guard, a few things. When there’s a hurricane or a tornado, I love that the National Guard, like the Red Cross, is there to help. That’s their job and they do it well. But far too many young Guards people have been killed in Iraq and that’s a shame. They didn’t sign up for tour after tour in that stupid, illegal immoral war. They should be helping victims here at home of natural disasters and then going back to their lives, right here at home. And another thing, when I go to the movies, I don’t want or need the jingoistic bullshit of that horrible song Citizen Soldier by that horrible group 3 Doors Down which is just a commercial for poor kids to join up and be killed. Every time I’m at the movies and that comes on I try to go outside and make a phone call rather than be subjected to the false patriotism of that song and its images. And when it’s over I always yell out the same thing – ‘BRING ‘EM HOME.” Yes, I am the crazy guy, the lone voice in the back of the theater, yelling out BRING ‘EM HOME after the images of soldiers killing redcoats and soldiers helping fallen comrades and giving out blankets and toys to little parentless Middle-eastern kids (parentless because we killed their parents!!!). So fuck you 3 doors down and fuck citizen soldier and war is not like some stupid movie, it is real and young people and civilians get killed and we don’t need 3rd rate rock acts and some photoshop stormy skies to help sell war. It’s bad enough that people have to sit through an Adam Sandler movie. They don’t need this crap added to that. The only song I want is that dancing popcorn and soda anthem, Let’s go out to the Lobby song. And one more time, BRING ‘EM HOME.
So it’s 9:30 and I’m through the checkpoints and I’m headed the Mall with thousands of other happy happy citizens of these United States, hopefully now bluer than ever. But of course they’re not letting us go to that furthest east part of the mall for the general public, the closest part of the mall nearest the Capitol steps where you don’t need tickets. No, now they’re rerouting us to the Mall at 12th street. That’s the second of the two big blocks of the Mall open to the public. Well, nothing to do but follow the crowd and we head towards 12th street. It’s light now and the big screens are set up around the Mall so you can see what’s happening. And we’ve got more room than we all expected. The New York Times had an article about how little room we’d all have; how we’d all have trouble turning or breathing or moving and that wasn’t the case. We didn’t have room to put down a blanket and catch some rays (it was 13 degrees now) but we could move without elbowing the person next to you and without catching whatever disease they had. I was convinced I would end up, a few days later for incubation purposes, with every disease known to man – dengue fever, ebola, the flu, a cold, typhus, cold sores, whatever – because we were going to be packed in so tightly and most people don’t know what it means to sneeze or cough and cover their mouths and people tend to spit in public and I figured this was some sort of weird Petri dish for illness but I think the cold killed most of the germs and here it is Saturday evening and I haven’t had to call the CDC in Atlanta yet cause I have symptoms that include the word “buboes”. Knock on wood. I think we’re all going to be okay. And that was the overriding sentiment on the Mall. Everyone was smiling, everyone was happy, and we were freezing and uncomfortable and somehow we all felt and knew that it was all okay and it was all going to be okay. Maybe not tomorrow but the optimism that bubbled up through that crowd was palpable. You could feel the choclatey Obama-goodness through all the layers of clothing. Hope is real.
And on the big screens they showed highlights of the Concert at the Lincoln Memorial and people sang along with Bruce and Pete Seeger doing This Land is Your Land and they had the words on the screen for the hearing impaired and I thought of Garrett Morris and there we were singing at the top of our lungs. And I loved bruce’s intro of the song where he called it “maybe the best song ever written in this country” and maybe he didn’t even say maybe. It is a great song and Seeger and Springsteen even sang the verses which said negative things about railroad bulls and private property and churches and god, that song was wonderful. And they showed Bono and then they went live and there was the occasional open mic and you caught little bits of “Hey, how you doing.” From the VIP section. And the occasional announcer voice saying, “Congressman Eric Cantor” and that got boos from the more politically astute in the crowd who know his as the obstructionist Rethuglican he is. And we’re approaching the magic hour of 11:30 when we know the VP is going to be sworn in. And we’re all smiling and we’re all talking and we’re all sharing and it is so real and the day is so raw and it is life as its finest. More tomorrow.