Wednesday, January 21, 2009

new president by k

i'm still a bit in a state of disbelief that we have a new president. i imagine soon it will start to feel real, as obama begins making decisions and little by little things change. these changes will probably have little direct impact on my life, but they will change the tone of the country. the tone has already changed.

i read an article in the new york times this morning about obama's extended family...what a range of backgrounds and beliefs. i don't think i had really thought about it before because families like his are not a rarity in our world, but wow, what a change! what a wonderful change. i kept looking at his daughters during the inaugural ceremony and thinking how to them their extended family and even the inauguration are in some ways simply their childhood experience...just the way things are...not different or strange. but for many, this was the culmination of a dream they never thought would come true. for others, even if i can't fathom it, the inauguration was a nightmare. where on the spectrum am i?

obviously i see the historical significance of this moment. a black president, a first. but i guess on some level it doesn't really surprise me because i was ready for a black president, or a woman or anyone else who is qualified and smart a long time ago. more shocking for me was that bush became president...two times! but maybe it was the bush detour that helped get us here. i only wish four years had been enough to "correct course" instead of the eight years we suffered through. i am moved and relieved and happy, but it's not a momentous moment for me in the same way it is for the black community, and possibly for other minority groups. it just can't be. i haven't walked in those shoes. if it had been hillary clinton up there or another woman, i would have felt it on a different level. i hope i'll live to see that, too!

i went to a "democrats abroad" party yesterday evening to watch the inauguration. i hadn't done anything on election day and felt somehow that i had missed out on the collective experience. this time i wanted to be around people who were also happy. arel had wanted to come with me, but since he spent the entire previous night throwing up (food poisoning, i think), he decided not to go. barak wasn't as interested in going, so the plan was he would stay with dorian, who had no interest whatsoever. despite dorian's lack of interest, i think it is a day he'll remember on some level...arel too.

i met a woman there who said that in some ways she had bush to thank for her current life...indirectly, of course. she is a married to a catalan man and has one or two children (i can't remember exactly). she's american, but left a few years ago because she couldn't take the political landscape anymore. she also said she felt proud to be an american yesterday. i paused. did i feel proud to be an american? i couldn't bring the words to my mouth. i guess that's just not the way i think. i felt very happy for the united states. i felt more optimistic. i felt thrilled to know bush was leaving office. i felt thankful that obama referred to "our forebearers" instead of "our forefathers" in his speech...subtle, but for me a major shift in tone. i felt pleased that when he listed religions, he included "and non-believers." another acknowledgement of a different way. but for whatever reason, i wouldn't say i felt proud to be an american. i guess i don't feel proud in the collective sense. what is an american, anyway?

often, in significant moments like this, i wonder what my dad would have made of it all. he immigrated to the united states because he felt it was a much more open society, with more possiblities and more free-thinking than germany, or europe in general. i don't think he would have said he was proud the be an american yesterday, either, but i do think he would have said that this is the country he wanted to immigrate to, this is what he was looking for. i think he would have been very happy to see obama become president. and i know he would have had some joke for barak about sharing a name with the president. i'm not sure what form it would have taken, but it would have been there.

i assume our new president is asleep now...four in the morning in washington, d.c. but maybe not. his days of sleep might be over. what must he feel like today? where will he start? where does one begin when so many fires are burning?

what i do know, is that since yesterday, the united states has changed. and of that, i am proud.