Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New President, new hope

Well today was the day of the inauguration of the 44th President. Oh don't be impressed by my knowledge of which president it is. I have always been notoriously horrible with American history. Pitiful, I know, but it is something I am trying to improve.
I missed the actual swearing in of this new President. I did watch a video of it on CNN. I also saw Elizabeth Alexander's reading of her poem:
Praise Song for the Day

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

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.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.

I found it interesting while she was reading this poem, that I was conscious of how it was being read. It seemed at the time to be read void of emotion, and the rhythm very measured. But I realize maybe that is why this poem has stayed with me all day. Quiet echos bouncing off my mind. I feel that it sums up how I feel at this time in history. A strange thing I find myself saying, "this time in history". It is probably this first time in my life that I have the acute feeling of history and taking part of it, even if it is as a simple observer. I wonder if "observers" during the Civil War felt this way. Or say at the time of the abolition of slavery. Or even when the first ally forces walked into the first of the horrific concentration camps in Europe.

I just hope that all this feeling of making history makes a difference really soon. I think that there are a great deal of people in a similar situation that my family is in, trying to find a GOOD job at GOOD pay. I just hope....