America is back

Nice-Matin, Jan 20, 2009Today’s headlines from the local paper, The Nice Matin.

L’Amérique est de retour  (America is back)

Premier jour de l’ère Obama (First day of the Obama era)

Barack Obama est devenu, hier, le premier president noir des États-Unis après avoir prêté serment devant une immense foule enthousiaste à Washington

(Barack Obama became, yesterday, the first black president of the United States, after being sworn in before a huge enthusiastic crowd in Washington)

Warning: the viewpoints expressed in the following paragraphs might not reflect your own.  That’s okay.  Breathe.  Politics can be bad for your blood pressure. If you start to hyperventilate, switch over to Fox News to calm yourself down. But come back – we’re not doing politics here every day!

I sat down to watch the inauguration yesterday, expecting that I would start to get choked up when Obama took the oath of office.  Instead, I started crying as soon as I turned CNN on – just watching people coming onto the platform – and continued to cry pretty much non-stop until the parade. (Making me very glad we’d decided to watch it all at home, rather than at the Nice “tex-mex”restaurant with others from my French class.)

Okay, I cry fairly easily.  But I was surprised at what I felt emptying out of me.  As I watched, I was crying with relief: relief that this was actually happening (it seems like years since election night).  Relief that people who disappointed or enraged me on pretty much a daily basis, were leaving.  Relief at seeing what seemed to be my generation (or younger) reflected in a lot of faces.  Hope and awe in seeing the mix of ages, genders, and races that seems closer to reflecting what the United States looks like today.

It was akin to the feeling I had election night, when my tightly guarded kernel of hope broke into disbelief and then real joy. 

I wish Obama weren’t inheriting such a raft of troubles (the French phrase is: “Il a du pain sur la planche.” Literally, “he’s got some bread on his plate,” but akin to our “he’s got a full plate” of work to do).  I wish the world wasn’t in the state it’s in.  (I wish my IRA wasn’t in the shape it’s in.) But I have hope, for the first time in eight years, that decisions will be made in a thoughtful, intelligent way – and more in line with my values, my philosophy.  I have hope that progress will be made on the environment, on straightening out healthcare so everyone gets covered, on making alternative energy mainstream energy, on equal rights, on choice.  I have hope that facts, science, rationality, and merit will trump ideology – for the benefit of us all.  And that makes me very happy.

I don’t expect miracles, but I do think steps will be made in the right direction, and I am grateful, relieved, and hopeful.

I also tore off the last page of my calendar of Bush gaffes.  And as someone who really cares about the English language, that made me very, very happy.

What else makes me happy? The fact that Obama is asking people to pitch in, to volunteer, to work together.  It may not be new (remember Bush I’s “Thousand points of light”?), but he showed throughout his campaign that he knows how to inspire and motivate people on the grassroots level, bringing younger people into the mix, using the power of technology to connect us.  There’s lots of great information on the White House website, including full statements on Obama’s agenda, a listing of his appointments/nominations, and a place where you can send messages to the administration.  There’s also going to be a blog, and a weekly video address (scheduled for Saturdays).  Check it out.

(I just hope that when the First Dog finally arrives, he gets to make his own Christmas videos for the website, just as Barney did…)

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