“Many Have Died For This Day”

20 Jan


Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

Elizabeth Alexander

Why do I and so many others, none of us Americans, feel so strongly about the election of this man?

It’s partly charisma, partly the oratory, some of it is a reaction to the past eight years and I’m sure our personal brand of politics has something to do with it too.

And a lot of it is hope – that in a world of six billion people, there must be more like him, waiting to come forward.

Four years from now, or perhaps eight, we will know how it all turned out. Whether it was just a chimera we desperately wanted to believe in or whether that early promise bore fruit. But at least we’ll always have had this moment of possibility.

My grandparents took a train to listen to Mahatma Gandhi speak, my mother cried when Pandit Nehru died, my father waited in the cold to listen to A. B. Vajpayee orate… I could never connect with any of that. How could you feel that way about a politician? The closest I ever came to it was when Nelson Mandela was freed from prison and my father and I would pore over the articles. But I don’t think either one of us looked at Mandela as a politician as such.

And then one day, I noticed a strange pull in my facial muscles as I watched Barack Obama deliver a speech. I was, to put it mildly, grinning from ear to ear.

Years have passed since then and I still don’t know whether I trust half the things he says… nothing personal, but even the best of politicians is still a politician. But I feel as though I’ve passed a rite of passage by experiencing this happiness.

I can only imagine what it would have been like if he’d been my fellow citizen.


Posted by on January 20, 2009 in News, Personal, Politics


15 responses to ““Many Have Died For This Day”

  1. Broom

    January 20, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    I find myself swinging wildly between swooning over him and hating him for picking Warren.
    Mostly, though, I am swooning.

  2. the post-punk cinema club

    January 20, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    There was some definite tearfulness. I woke up at 3am for this, man! It was HISTORICAL.

    Preferred Elizabeth Alexander’s poem in print rather than her delivery – so stilted! But I guess following Obama would make anyone look like a bad orator.

  3. ana

    January 20, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    I had not planned to watch the Inauguration, but I’m glad that I did. I loved the entire program, and I did not think I would be as moved as I was by what Obama said.

    It was a good day in America today.

    I also couldn’t help but chuckle at part of Warren’s invocation, perhaps the hand of God was smiting me at the time. Ouch!

  4. Silvara

    January 20, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    Totally know how you feel….never have I been so caught up in politics, not even for my own home country.

    There’s Something About Obama… 😀 😀 😀

  5. complicateur

    January 20, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    As constant victims of political abuse over the past 8 years, the people have a very evolved sense of distrust that is hard to shake. It would seem that now the United States is finally in a political relationship worthy of that holy grail abuse-victims are so disinclined to cough-up, trust. But trusting does not imply a lack of vigilance and the new president elect has acknowledged as much over many speeches.

    As I leave the country, it is in much much better hands than the ones that held the reigns when I arrived. And I expect to find it in a far healthier political relationship if and when I do return. I have hope and Barack Hussein Obama (even if through a little mass hysteria) gave it to me.

  6. Mamma Mia! Me a Mamma?!?

    January 20, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    I’ve tied to analyse my feelings here…

    But the sense of hope that everyone is feeling and keeps talking about, it’s so palpable. Let’s hope they now bear fruit!

  7. Dena

    January 20, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    I loved Elizabeth Alexander’s poem but she read it so stiffly that it didn’t have nearly the emotioal impact that it could have. I’d like to hear it again read by someone with oratory skill like Morgan Freeman or Maya Angelou.

  8. Sujatha

    January 20, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    Broom, his picking Warren might have been to make a point – that dissenting viewpoints have a voice in his administration.

    Ams, in these times where if America has a flu the rest of the world sneezes, etc., etc., we are all fellow citizens in a way!

    Dena, ditto.

  9. A Cynic in Wonderland

    January 21, 2009 at 3:04 am

    True. I was watching it yesterday and i couldnt but feel a pang of envy – that we dont have anyone half as charismatic or someone who can give that kind of hope.

  10. Hades

    January 21, 2009 at 8:09 am

    Too many expectations. Too many.

    I fear for Obama.

  11. M

    January 21, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Watched the ceremony in the company cafeteria, where the whole crowd of techies cheered when he finished taking the oath! Teared up as well..but I fear for his expectations as well.

    Loved the explicit mention of Hindus in his speech – my son was allowed to watch in school, and that was the first thing he talked about at home: “Obama mentioned Hindus and N and I said Yes! in class, and Mrs. T didn’t mind us being loud “- so I see some benefits of his election that I hadn’t noticed before.

    Moving on to frivolous issues, Loved the clothes on Michell and the girls at the inauguration, didn’t care for the ball gown, as I am not a fan of chiffon and rosettes, but love her confidence in wearing that dress..


  12. Amrita

    January 21, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    Broom – the good thing about the Warren pick if you’re looking for a silver lining, is that he was a crashing bore and came off sounding terrible against Rev Lowery who might have been recycling themes from the 60s but made it sound awesome. So, yes, put me in the swoon column, please.

    P-PCC – I don’t understand why they did that. She’s caught all sorts of flack in the first place simply for being a poet, then she follows the main event which makes no sense and then she was put even more off kilter when she saw the crowds begin to disperse. Poor thing.
    I felt most affected by those crowd shots. loves it.

    Ana – I laughed out loud when he said Sasha like it was the name of some exotic elixir.

    Silvara – it’s eau de hope 😀

    Complicateur – aww! you’ve caught the tone of this moment perfectly and in far fewer words than me, lol.

    Mamma – thanks for the link! I read it before you sent it! 😀 And from the looks of it, he’s already on to a flying start.

    Dena – I don’t know if that’s her fault or not, but I agree, it deserved a better reading than what it got.

    Sujatha – well, at least they’re not voting the way the rest of us feel then! 😀

    Cynic – 😦 I WANT.

    Hades – realistically speaking, I know he’s going to let us down some time, but we can always, um, hope 😀

    M – It;s what I was thinking, that here’s a President who’s willing to at least acknowledge about other people in the midst of a very Christian ceremony, you know? It really was inclusive.
    I love ze frivolous issues so I must say I share your ambivalence about the Wu gown (dude used to design for Barbie and it kind of shows) but I thought she carried it off. And I loved the Toledo dress earlier with the green gloves. OMIGOD! so stylish! and Jill Biden! With her knee high stilleto boots, and her red coat and her red dress in the evening! Those are two FOXY women at the top!

  13. complicateur

    January 21, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    In hindsight that comment was a little on the aww side. I promise to go back to snarky comments hereon (as I have on the flygirl post).

  14. ravi

    January 24, 2009 at 8:17 am

    As a registered REPUBLICAN who went against the grain and voted for Obama, I want him to do well. Giving good speeches in one thing. Making things work in this tough economy is another.

    God help us all,………………………………………………….

  15. scriptlarva

    January 25, 2009 at 3:57 am

    Obama is just another individual who is ‘decorating’ a post. He can influence independent decisions but I am afraid that he may not be able to radically change policies.

    He is talking about disengaging from Iraq. They are not going back to US but to Afghanistan. Evidently he is not aversive to the idea of using force for changing rulers. Obviously he is worried about the nukes in pakistan and US safety. The eternal CIA practice code lives on.

    The perfectly timed ending of Israel invasion of Gaza before his oath. But nothing about that in his speech. Evidently his approach towards Israel is clear. He talks about resolving the palestinian conflict. Which American president has not?

    The public good will last only as long as they are safe. If there is another attack in US in the next 4 years, no one will value his speech on ‘safe guarding individual rights.’
    Wonder how he will proceed if there is another attack in US some how….

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