Sunday, December 11, 2011

An Essay of Hope...Winter Wonderland...reflections on an inauguration

Winter Wonderland

As we hear the pounding hooves that constitute the 2012 election year, I offer up my non-winning essay I wrote when the soon-to-be-newly minted Obama Administration launched a contest that would net the winner a sweet front row seat at the inauguration.

Recently I came across my unpublished piece and I was struck by the fact that I still believe every word, albeit one must substitute telling references from the past such as "January 22, 2009" and "inauguration" with other timely, perhaps more general mentions, such as "in the future" and "the presidency."I realize "hope" has become part of a hackneyed phrase. Truly that fact does not negate the importance of preserving hope, regardless of whether you’re an active player in the board game called Politics or simply actively affected by it.

It is my belief that we may land on any square -- Libertarian, Democratic, Republican, or Undeclared – let us NOT land on the apathy square.

As a teacher I’m fond of the review process, so maybe by revisiting the optimistic frame of mind we may have held from 2009, we will reignite our will and surge forward together toward common goals that we all share. We can pick new game pieces, if you will.
A girl can dream.

What does the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama mean to me? It means that winter is a season of hope, rather than a metaphor representing our country’s disillusionment. It means we are experiencing a shared awakening, after a long and dispirited hibernation. It means that we possess the combined ability to change and this ceremony signifies a celebration of that fact.

Ticking off the ten inaugurations that have taken place during my lifetime, I note this is the first year in my adult life that I am sitting front row center, in a socio-political revolution that envelopes me in tropes of inspiration. While I am certainly signed on for change as a mantra, accepting it as a way of life long ago, the induction celebrating Barack Obama’s presidency intensifies our country’s cultivation and commitment to this thing we call “change,” this thing that is the real constant in our lives. Attaching a richly traditional rite like the inauguration to our nation’s progression is a transformative moment not to be missed. With this historic inauguration, we exemplify the duality of our individual histories and that of our country’s history as we show change to be as constant as care and we connect to one another for the first time in almost a decade.

Barack Obama’s inauguration is a metaphor for our collective ability to change. I would be remiss if I did not mention the momentous element that resides in the inauguration of a racially mixed president, not just because it is inspiring to show the world that, though a stubborn nation, we are able to evolve and grow, but because Barack Obama represents the global citizen that we all need to be. We know this administration is not a panacea for all of our ills, but how refreshing that it offers a solution, a healing, a balm for what ails us and, make no mistake, we have been ailing.

The fabulous news is that what we need for change is already in us, confirming our innate ability, not just to court change, not just to embrace change, but to acknowledge its absolute necessity in any governing body and its populace. We have, of course, inaugurated many worthy presidents, some worthier than others when applying a variety of governing litmus tests, but this inauguration, this one resonates loudly, deeply, cleanly, genuinely and differently in our soul because the timing is so right and we are spiritually famished. Swearing in our forty-fourth president, we embrace all of the leadership legacies of the past, simultaneously honoring all of the promise and trust sitting on our hopeful horizon and we are made new again, daring to care.

Truth be told, as a nation, we never quit caring. I see it in angry youth, I see it in those who inspire critical thinking and I even see it in the disenfranchised. “Give us a reason to care” is what resonates with us all and while we have always had the ability to care, of late it has not seemed quite safe to invest overly much in that emotion. And that is the trick: to never give up caring; to avoid apathy; to preserve our right to feel significant.

Human nature is a funny thing; when it seems time will prove us unworthy of even our own survival, our better nature prevails and we show that we care plenty. If we would just look up and in, regularly, seeking to bring out the best in one another, we would gain so much more from our enlightened thinking. Room would be made to ponder our future, reflect upon our past and savor our hopes, dreams and aspirations, making the lightness of conciliation a part of our everyday world, much as will be symbolized at that lectern on January 22nd. In this way we can engender the co-existence of even technology and humanity, not making them mutually exclusive. Nature has already done this. I see it in action every time I witness airplane tracers beautifully paint a sky picture, enhancing nature’s sunrise in hopeful shades of beginning, resulting in artful expression. Care is a somewhat intangible term, though positively connotative, but perched on the precipice of honoring a new leader to whom we have entrusted the care of all we hold to be true, there is so much value to the process.

This particular investiture represents our country taking constructive action, avoiding a birdwalk into indifference. The fact that so many cared enough to weigh in, to vote; youthful activists, overachieving babyboomers, pontificating pundits, marginalized citizens, all spanning a rainbow of ethnicities, backgrounds and beliefs. Our overwhelmingly common belief is that we should care enough to keep trying to “do the right thing,”whatever that means, specifically, to any of us. As the citizenry, it is our responsibility to parry the untrue, to not get lost in the rhetoric, reject negativity, refute untruths, disavow posturing and think for ourselves with great heart and intention. Freedom has a place in all of this; free thinking, free will, free choice. The exertion of all of these rights leads to the preservation of them and that is the real litmus test of how we are doing.

Gazing out over my personal landscape of just under half a century, I can assess how I am doing in my personal evolution by looking at how the general populace is doing at the intersection of this year’s inauguration because we are all connected. My greatest individual accomplishment is that I have never stopped caring and I know I am not alone in this exigent endeavor. Americans believe in doing the right thing and while we can acknowledge the oppositional aspects of our history that has us doing both the right and wrong things over and over again, it is with humble acknowledgment of our past follies that we may proceed in a more forward-thinking manner. We cannot boast perfection, but we can boast aspirations of leaving things better than we found them – always.

On January 22, 2009 I envision myself attending the inauguration, standing humble and proud in my spiffy, newish black and white houndstooth-patterned coat, wearing the purple mittens my daughters gifted me with this Christmas and dabbing my eyes with a sodden tissue, as I pay tribute to the man who will lead us because we never gave up. We cared enough to pay attention and invest in our seamed futures and while I certainly respect Barack Obama and all he will facilitate, bringing out the best in us, it is the sagacious Dr. Suess who spoke the message best in the story, The Lorax: “UNLESS someone like you; cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Things will be better.

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