The inauguration was incredible. I left with a feeling of real optimism, not the kind you fake to yourself to keep your spirits up in the face of false promises. There is a lot of work to be done, and Obama is far from perfect, but we made a great choice. This country feels united.
I went to the festivities with my chill friend Kate from Massachusetts. Our first event was the “We Are One” Concert. We left fairly close to the event, figuring most people would leave very early to try and get good spots. It was a good guess (and one that held true on January 20th as well).
While the metro ride in was a breeze, soon after leaving the metro we hit massive crowds of people. What looked like army enlisted milled purposely about with DC police, directing foot traffic towards the National Mall. The feeling was one that would stay with us thoughout the day, and during the inauguration and parade. It felt like a giant family event, and everyone was family.
At the mall, we ran into a few protests. There was an anti-war group that wanted to arrest Bush, and theocrats protesting everyone who wasn’t an evangelical Christian. I was struck by the Fear God hat one of the protestors was wearing. Their message fell flat. Religious fundamentalists are falling from power. Those who weren’t there to mock or argue were simply taking pictures of the dinosaurs on the way to the main attraction.
The Mall was packed with people focused on the scatered jumbotrons, with kids hoisted up on shoulders to get a better view. Some of the speakers were dyamic and loud, while others (I’m looking at you Tom Hanks) droned quietly on while people around us speculated “Why is he still talking? Can anyone here what he’s saying?”. U2 came through loud and clear (and rocked the stadium), as did Stevie Wonder. (Usher looked as though every few seconds he realized he was singing next to Stevie Wonder, and burst into a smile that was more of a silent laugh). Mary J Bilge’s rendition of Lean on Me had everyone singing along.
Whenever Obama came on the screen, the crowd went wild. You can hear the crowd singing along as the music plays:
We left as the Boss sang “This Land is Your Land” with Pete Seeger. It was a hell of a note to leave on! The trip back was more difficult. The metro was a little crowded, as were the roads back to the station. But all in all it was a very smooth, well organized ride.
The Inauguration was the next big event, and we left just 15 minutes before it started, hoping the crowds would have already left. Once again we made it into DC with only minor delays, and were soon trudging slowly towards the National Mall, making our way through an even more impressive number of people in the street. Trash cans everywhere (even before noon) were overflowing with refuse. The closer we got the mood got progressively more and more bouyant. The fundamentalists were back (and engaged in debate), as were the massive crowds.
The reaction to Obama’s speeches was something to witness in person. You just felt lifted being there:
We left as soon as he finished speaking. The walk back was so tightly packed that at first we could barely move. Further up the street the pace picked up, as did our spirits. We had become a parade of our own!
When we got to the parade route, there was no way in. Fortunately for us, there were plenty of sights to see. People brought attention to genocide (in a row of what looked like conservative protestors behind the fence) and offered creative takes on the peace movement (including, of course, the always delightful code pink). I ran into a fundamentalist promoting the idea that the world would end in 2011 (his cause seemed awfully familiar). When I asked him what he planned to do in 2012, his response was “What’s 2012? That’s not biblical”. This man and woman had a curious set of signs about Christianity in Iraq.
There was literally dancing in the street. Breakdancing (nearly everyone watching dropped cash in their hat. It was a good day for local performers and businesses):
The parade itself was a bit of a problem. These huge fences stood between us and a good picture. For some reason security insisted that people standing along a wall of a building come down (with a few people giving them heck for it, including this woman):
We settled a street or so down. Trees and port-a-pottys were both game for adventurous observers. I hopped up on a rickety platform with a few other people. I’m very surprised it didn’t topple over. It was hard to get any interesting pictures even from that angle, although I did spot a couple of kids dancing to the music piping down the street. Unfortunately the excitement was too much for my fellow citizens on the platform, and we were moving far too much to get a good photo of the President or his entourage.
We left a bit dissapointed we didn’t end up close enough for a picture, but happy about the rest of the day. By this time it had begun to sink in.
We have a new President.