We should have been in DC for the inauguration. Accommodation, flights and babysitting were sorted since the end of November. The guilty party knows who he is. Let’s just say that when I refer to him, if I refer to him at all, he is, His Grey Eminence. And to compound the disappointment I found out on Facebook. There, posted on his page, was a flyer announcing his keynote speech to the Reserve Bank of India in Mumbai the day after the inauguration. Somehow this Trekkie thought he possessed a Transporter. Using voice commands like “Energize!” he could dematerialize at will from Pennsylvania Avenue, only to be reborn whole on the Subcontinent, and all in time for a quick chapatti before his lecture. Even Mr. Spock would conclude that this was highly illogical.
So the day America, and it seemed the world, welcomed a new, bright, handsome prince, I was a world away on this small rock glued to a TV screen. What an experience it would have been to hear the old people who came up from the south tell their stories and to feel the sense of hope and renewal surge through the two million strong crowd as they looked on, often through tears, and in almost complete silence, as he placed his hand on Abe Lincoln’s bible. Of course he had constitutionally become President five minutes earlier. The cameras showed his wife gently touch his shoulder at the stroke of noon to announce history had been made.
About a dozen of us, representing many nationalities, were gathered around our TV. Some had taken an extended lunch break while others had successfully pleaded for the Court of Appeal to recess for the afternoon so they could sit on the sofa and laugh and cry as we witnessed this overwhelming moment. When Aretha Franklin belted out My Country 'Tis of Thee from the depths of her soul, my spine tingled. And a tear or two might have rolled down my cheeks had I not been annoyingly distracted by her rather distinctive hat. Sista, even if you are the Queen of Soul, there are some crazy bow and rhinestone creations that belong to the 1930s, and should remain in the 1930s.
Like many non-Americans I had never bothered to watch an inauguration before so it was a novel experience. It must be the closest Americans get to a royal ceremony. Substitute the black beast limos for gilded, horse-drawn carriages, and a young, dark-skinned couple for some old white folks, and you could almost have been on the other side of the pond. If QE2 was watching telly I think her advice to the new royals would be succinct: practice your wave. Take it from a woman who has waved at crowds for over eighty years. You can’t keep up that enthusiastic movement of your wrist. The proper royal way is to slowly and gently rotate your uplifted, open, palm back and forth through no more than a forty-five degree turn or you’ll soon suffer repetitive stress syndrome.
The inauguration of the 44th President of the United States of America while regal was also full of moments ordinary people could relate to. When Obama sat down to sign the oath of office and took the pen into his left hand, the four lefties huddled around our TV squealed with excitement that he was one of them. Then someone shouted out,
“Man it look like Biden and Obama getting married!”
And if you did not know anything about the characters and proceedings, for a split second it did resemble a gay wedding being witnessed by two supportive families.
But not everyone was convinced by the joy of the occasion. Among our number were a few skeptics and conspiracy theorists. Obama’s choice of a classical quartet instead of some rhythmic African drumming was interpreted as a sign that he had, even in these early moments, already been assimilated into The Matrix. Instead of opening their hearts to the sounds of Yo-Yo Ma’s cello or Itzhak Perlman’s violin, there were mutterings that the John Williams composition, Air and Simple Gifts, should now be considered The Matrix theme song. West Indians are a tough audience.
Yet all agreed that even if the handsome prince were to lose his common touch he would never be touched by any, eh, overly enthusiastic White House interns. Who would want to have to account for themselves in front of this new, formidable First Lady? And Biden’s lady also put the brazen hussies of DC on notice. We already knew she had a doctorate but post inauguration we also know she has fabulous legs so don’t be messing with her Joe.
And so it continued for a few hours as we watched the ceremonial passing of power unfold. As Obama walked Bush to the waiting helicopter one of our posse blurted out,
“It look like Bush being escorted off de premises! Yes Obama, make sure he leave good and proper!”
The sight of him physically leaving, taking with him corruption, greed and a disregard for the basic human rights of others, was a profoundly satisfying one.
All over the world people listened as Obama’s words ushered in a new era of responsibility and dialogue. The ghost of Martin Luther king Jr. must have been smiling. How far fetched his dreams once seemed. Now we wait. We wait to see if the words match the deeds. We wait to see what will happen in 120 days when his temporary suspension of trials at Guantanamo Bay is over.
We all want so much of you Obama and we’re waiting.