Monday, January 19, 2009

Let the goosebumps ripple

This weekend started the festival of goosebumps called the inauguration of Barack Obama. First on Saturday morning, we rode the Claymont Amtrak station in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the Obama Train. We knew we wouldn't see Barack or Michelle or Joe or Jill, but we wanted to be among the Delawarians to welcome them to the east coast. We just wanted to be part of the excitement. Unfortunately we didn't make it before they had closed off the road to the station, but we did drive up and down Philadelphia Pike, with police chopper circling overhead, trying to time it so we could see the train go across the overpass bridge. The lone state trooper sitting under the overpass eventually waved us along with stern warning, so we didn't get to even see the train. But we tried; we waved to the Obamas and Bidens in our hearts. Instead of being there live, we went home and cuddled on the couch with some hot chocolate and watched Obama's address in Baltimore. Commence goosebumps.

A few minutes ago I watched the HBO telecast of the We Are One concert on the National Mall. It was fantastic. Go watch it, at least part of it. Now. I defy you to stay dry-eyed when you see Bruce Springsteen singing "The Rising" -- the song about our nation standing up after getting the snot knocked out of us on 9/11 takes on new meaning when performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with a huge gospel choir backing, the Obama children looking on, and the beginning of a new world only a day away. I dare you to sit still when Garth Brooks takes the stage! Sweet Boy got up and danced with me during Garth's medley of "American Pie," "Shout," and "We Shall Be Free."

Of course, for me the pinnacle performance was U2 singing "Pride in the Name of Love" and "City of Blinding Light" -- two of my very favorite songs by my very favorite band. (By the way, I find it interesting that most of the news stories about the concert made a big deal out of Bono's remark that freedom is a dream of Israelis and Palestinians alike -- of course it is! And wouldn't you expect Bono to take that opportunity to make one tiny little comment about world politics?) Can you imagine getting teary-eyed over "This Land is Your Land"? I did. I wept while singing along with Pete Seeger and The Boss and thousands of people on the Mall, whose performance was topped only by Beyonce and the entire ensemble belting the hell out of "America the Beautiful."

All of the songs performed were obviously chosen for their uplifting, kum-ba-ya vibe. The entire program was fairly melodramatic and in places overwrought, and I felt like a big ol' cornball singing and dancing in my family room -- but I just couldn't help myself. I was overcome with enormity of this week, the symbolism, the patriotism. I wanted to run and hug my neighbors. I wanted to call long-lost friends. I wanted to play in the snow and dive in the ocean and skip through field of daisies and climb shoreline rocks and do all the things that make me feel good. I had to sing and dance.

Tonight, I am filled today with pride and love and excitement for my country. It's so cliche to say this is the eve of a new era -- but it is! A brand new world starting tomorrow. Of course the scariness all around us will not disappear in a poof of smoke at 12:00 pm. There's a lot of scary ahead and a lot of darkness, I'm sure. But the beauty of this inauguration is that we can see the light. We're not just welcoming in a new presidential administration; we're standing up and telling the world that the United States is back, that realize we have not been our best the last decade or so, but don't count us out. Sure we stood by while our leaders made bad decisions, but we have learned the important lessons. Regardless of what happens in his first 100 days in office, Barack Obama is already a great leader because he makes us want to be better spouses and parents and neighbors and workers and friends. He makes us believe in all the things our elementary school history books taught us. He makes us want to be better citizens of this country and this world.

So folks, I fully intend to go through tomorrow with goosebumps all over my body, head to toe. I will not fight the goosebumps. I will let the tears flow freely. I will hug my neighbors. And I will shout as loud as ever "Yes we can!"

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