Yeah, you read that right. Your boy’s in the nation’s capital for the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States, the first African American to ascend to such heights. Truth be told, I hadn’t planned on being here. Like a lot of Americans, in the new year I was too busy paper chasing to focus on inauguration celebrations. But then a friend sent me a blackberry message over the weekend, saying they had a strong desire to go, considering history was going to be made, and my reaction was that of any free-spirited individual with nothing to lose: LET’S GO!
So on about an hour of sleep, I groggily made my way to the Port Authority in New York, hopped on the next bus out of town, with no rhyme or reason as to where I would find room and board, and by around 12pm on Monday afternoon I arrived in DC. I’d spent a few minutes on Sunday afternoon watching that concert with U2 and Shakira and Beyonce and a whole bunch of other supposed “stars.” I thought they had a good mixture of acts at that concert, but god forbid they actually had anyone up there who truly had something to say. Yikes! But I digress. I ended up at a friend of a friend’s home, and before long I made my way out to the national mall to see the monuments and such.
Like anyone who’s older than say, 15, I’d been to DC before, and did the whole touristy thing. But this time it was different. It was late afternoon, and to see the monuments and memorials against the greying sky, a little glint of the sun still visible before it ducked beneath the horizon for the day, was truly majestic. And it was freezing (in fact I think my pinky finger may have frozen and broken off somewhere around the Lincoln Memorial). But I took pictures, and soaked up the positive energy. So many families, so many parents with their children. A lot of students. Everyone in 30 degree weather with smiles across their faces, most likely fucked up inside about how our country is in the shitter, but gripped with a sense of confidence that things will get better.
For much of the day I texted, emailed, twittered, and blackberry messengered with folks who were either in or around the DC area. Some of them industry folks, some of them not. Despite the momentous occasion that brought us all here, our conversations were largely of a social order, particularly, “What’s poppin tonight?” It seemed like everyone I knew was donning a black tie or a dress and heading to some gala ball. One of my illustrious hosts seemed to know of every heavily promoted urban party in the city. There was Jamie Foxx at such and such, Jeezy over here, Common over there, Diddy over there. He was nice enough to drive to a few of these venues, just so we could check them out. Lo and behold, it wasn’t even 9:30 and the lines were down the block and around corners. They’re thinking, fuck the issues, let’s get our party on!! Typical.
I walked around DC’s Chinatown. People were selling any and every kind of Obama merchandise conceivable. Men in big puffy coats, shouting at pedestrians walking down the street, “Get your official Obama lighters!” “Get your Obama soap!” “Get your Obama pajamas.” I respect their hustle. Real talk, in my younger years I used to dabble in similar street vendor hustles. It’s the true embodiment of the American Dream.
A lot of thoughts filled my mind as I made my way through this melting pot of a city. Some are insisting that DC is the new New York. That DC now has all the stars. That could very well be the case. Barack’s inauguration literally feels like the Super Bowl, NBA All Star Weekend, and some sort of important political event all wrapped up in one. Which is what New York feels like on a daily basis.
I watched people buy and wear Obama shirts, and I’m probably late with this assessment, but there’s one particular illustration that keeps popping up repeatedly. These shirts, the way they’re sported, bear a striking resemblance to the way leftists rock the Che` Guevara t-shirt. A powerful and progressive man indeed. Relegated, in some respects, to a mere fashion statement. Then again, we are what we wear, right?
After I catch about 3 hours of sleep (it’s 3am as I’m finishing writing this), I’m going to head back out and find a good place to watch the actual inauguration ceremony. I will brave the cold and the snow that is being predicted in the weather forecast. I will lose another pinky if I have to. Because I want to see this man officially become the next president of the United States.
I will say this though, people are very optimistic about Barack’s presidency, but they’re patient. Which I don’t know Americans to really be. That is wise, because like Rome (another former imperialist empire), the United States as we know it wasn’t built in a day.
However, if Barack’s presidency somehow goes wrong, and things don’t change in some ways for the better over the next four years, I think it will show just how truly foolish the American public is. That Joe six pack and Sally the soccer mom are a bunch of morons. That our system has failed us, no matter who is in office.
Just my 3am thoughts people.