Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hope and Circumstance

Watching the inauguration in front of Cardullo's crowded round the window flatscreen with what felt like four or five dozen of my best buddies holding balloons and streamers, drinking free coffee and hot apple cider offered in celebration by Cardullo's themselves and sharing a folding metal chair with Tara in her weird old-lady hat, I realized that I kept tearing up again and again at odd moments, and even released a bona-fide tear during the President's (we can say it now) speech.

But I was initially mistrustful of these emotions evoked by flags and pomp and "Hail to the Chief." Never in my adult life has politics excited me, much less inspired me. What bizarre day of yore must this be? We read about politicians who unite, who fill the country with drive and purpose and yes, hope, but they were men and women of our parents' parents' generation, surely, and impossible after the sixties and seventies, after the assassination of Kennedy and King and Lennon. We know better now, don't we? After all, he's only a symbol, and now he has so much to live up to, a demi-god myth to chisel himself to before the task instead of after, and how can anyone hope to live up to that?

But I barely noticed the blood slowing in my toes and fingers during the two+ hours I was out there. There's graffiti supporting this man, for god's sake, and art. Real art. I've never seen that kind of groundswell inspired by a politician. And don't we know enough to eschew the cynicism of the '90s and early '00s? Isn't that what got us into this mess in the first place -- that attitude that let's us rest in sneers as the corruption metastasizes?

Symbols are the realest things in the world. Symbols are the only reason humans have ever done anything. Money, country, religion, family, honor, love, these are all symbols. The power to make symbols via abstract thought is one of the things that defines and drives all human beings. Why else have we built buildings, created rituals, sewn gowns?

I choose to believe in symbols. I choose to reject the starkly "realistic" view of the cynic who clammily stands by and grunts at the notion of earnest change. This type of cynicism isn't realism, it's laziness. To mimic sentiments of the President himself, America has no time for the lazy.

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