*Note: I have taken great lengths in the past few months to mostly be neutral regarding politics. But this is my blog, my outlet. I am a writer and find great peace in words. Read it, skip it, your choice, I don't care.*
This is a picture of Barack Obama a second before he lifted his hand to take the oath. It's the last second of the Bush presidency.
CNN conducted a mass campaign to have those at the inauguration send in a picture of Obama as he took the oath. They called it "The Moment." The moment history was made. The moment the old guard passed to the new. The moment where you either soared with exultation, crumpled in desperation, or somewhere in between. Either way, the moment where something - inside you, outside you, all around you - shifted.
This is about the moment in between this picture, and the one at the end of this post.
The word "hope" has been bandied about a lot in this election, and for good reason. It's not trite or contrived, it's real. For the first time in a long time, there is something real. I witnessed the inauguration from a spot nearly in the bushes beside the Washington Monument. All around me, beyond what I could see, huddled an estimated 1.8 million people. Every gender, every race, every age, every religion, every class. How often does that happen?
I don't know how you begin to capture the joy and expectancy of those on the Mall. Of those in their living rooms and workplaces across the country and around the world. Those who finally feel that their voices are being heard. Those who know that it's not supposed to be about entitlement and secrecy and might. It's about this. The feeling that we are on the cusp of something big. The great hope of something new. The history of the day.
And this unity, this gathering, is history. And beyond that, as much as we may want to think otherwise, race still matters. It unites and divides and it matters. To quote UNC professor-emeritus Chuck Stone, "recognize the differences, but don't let them make a difference." Recognize that after more than 200 years of rule by the same class, gender, and race, it's time to acknowledge what this means. That no one, including Obama, can possibly speak for every one, but we are too big of a country to let the same people do so over and over again. That race influences who you become just as gender, class, and geography. But it's the voice, opinions, actions, and passion that you draw from all of those factors, that make people take notice. All of that is what made me take notice. All of that is what made people listen.
And I am so proud of my generation for listening, for finally waking up. (Though obviously we were just a tiny part in this outcome.) This is the same generation that brought school shootings, childhood obesity, and atrociously violent video games to the forefront of our national consciousness. And now we are also the generation that finally put our vote behind our over-active mouths. From the college students that waited in line to vote for six hours in Pennsylvania, to every person standing on a corner with a candidate's sign in hand begging you to listen. And I'm not referring just to Democrats, but to everyone who recognized this election was a crucible in the future of our country, even if the outcome isn't what they wanted.
And I hate that as I celebrate the day, there are many who see it as the dawning of a terrifying era. But that gives me patriotism more than anything else. We are free to disagree, and the balance of power can shift in a moment.
So I will remember the crowds and the cold and the sore back. I'll remember the 2 hours it took to get from my apartment to the Mall, instead of the usual 25. I'll remember daringly dodging fire trucks and men holding machine guns with a good friend
But I'll tell my kids about how I took a picture of the last second of the Bush presidency, when I felt the shift occur that changed things. And how a second later I took a picture of the beginning of President Obama, because it happens that fast. And suddenly it's the moment when you know it won't be easy, it won't be perfect, and that day by day that hope might fade away. But not yet. And hopefully not for a long time. It's the moment in between the two, where anything can still happen, I'll try to remember the most.