Sunday, January 25, 2009


The sun rose slowly over the Washington Monument on January 20, 2009. Flocks of seagulls swarmed the air, reflecting the excitement from the ground. The air was bitterly cold, fresh and clean. Journalists, tourists, officials and ROTC volunteers poured into the National Mall in steady streams.

By some awesome trick of the universe, I was there. I was there in long johns, jeans, leg warmers, three sweaters, a ski jacket, scarf, beanie and gloves. Michelle and I packed the Washington Post, a bag of carrots, apples and crackers, and two fleece blankets. We were far from the Lincoln Memorial--very far, but much closer to meaningful change than I have ever been.

What did it feel like? I've never been the type to quote "America the Beautiful" or remember the Pledge of Allegiance verbatim--any sense of American identity I have is the result of open debate, often defiance for the system we have yet to reform. It is hard to let one's guard down after several years of tuning out the status quo. Mine is a generation used to being let down by the global gag rule, by decreasing funds for public education and hard-fought battles against racial profiling and homophobia. But last Tuesday--the Presidential Inauguration at the Capitol steps--the crowd was pulsing with growing optimism.

"Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met."

We sat in the cold for five hours. The longer we sat, the more surrounded we became. Surrounded by little old black women from Tennessee and Alabama, waving Obama flags, by twenty-year-old college reporters with manual cameras, by five-year-olds decked out in snowsuits. Every time I stood up, the sea of people grew to meet me. The energy of the crowd was raw, unadulterated. And somehow, I was there.

It took well over an hour to leave the Mall. We huddled like penguins, wandering en masse toward any available exit. Both my shoes had loose laces, but the combination of the crowd and the freezing cold kept me from leaning down to fix the problem. Each step forward resulted in two tugs in opposite directions, and yet it was symbolic of that thread that tied us all there, filing past national monuments and weaving through political officials like the latest group of tired and hungry masses.

The promise of renewal is strong.

One week later, it is hard to believe how much of the universe shifted that day. I've read and watched a lot of interviews in which citizens express their fears that Obama has been idolized to an unhealthy extent, and that his is an unlikely journey. Perhaps, and yet anyone standing in National Mall on Inauguration day will tell you that the sheer power of belief--of honest, critical expression--is enough to mobilize the most diverse groups.

On January 20, 2009, I felt vindicated. I know I wasn't the only one.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Poem I Like

Keeping Things Whole

by Mark Strand

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body's been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

two thousand nine

There's a certain ring to it, isn't there? As a child, I always preferred odd numbers. I love the fact that numbers can be imperfect, like the universe. This will be a good year.

I wish I had something prophetic to say. I wish I were wise. My body has more wisdom than my brain does, and it's rare that the two communicate. I can say that there is a looming momentum to this particular year, with the promise of a new administration.

Here's what I hope to see in 2009:

1. More, not less, jobs. I'd love to join the forces of Obama's version of the New Deal--if he's reading this, I'll up and move to Tennessee if that means I can get a job recording oral histories of our first Work Progress Administration.

2. Mobilization, on both the grass-roots and corporate levels, for guaranteed civil liberties. For once, I'd like to see the government pass amendments that grant rights, not deny them.

3. I want a continuous blood glucose monitoring system--yet another piece of diabetic hardware that could help pinpoint the times of day when my body flips over inside.

Here's my open invitation to the new year:

1. 2009, I'm offering you my open palms, blossoming confidence, my willingness to work, unadulterated opinion and indiscreet expression, and a damn fine promise to avoid skepticism.

I'll try. You try too. Maybe everyone will. Maybe this will be the year global warming doesn't accelerate quite so fast, that the world sees the United States as just that -- an entity of diverse opinions. Maybe we'll all get ponies. I don't really want a pony. I just want an incentive, a carrot at the end of my stick.

two thousand nine. Good things will happen. Let's see.