This week, President Obama reversed the Bush policy on torture and lifted the ban on federal money to organizations that provide abortion counselling. That makes two giant steps in the right direction. He is walking the walk. That is good.
Next I hope he will request Congress to repeal the Patriot Act and then the Department of Homeland Security.
Maybe then we can all sleep a little more soundly!
In what other country in the history of the world would the past leaders (and their "backups") gather to celebrate the transfer of power? Where else would a president, whose every utterance and act in eight [long, miserable, rotten] years in office has been totally opposed to everything the new president stands for, invite the New Guy to have coffee and then turn around and attend his swearing in!?? In a way, I felt the transfer of power might have been George Bush's finest moment [which, of course, isn't saying a whole lot]. He and Mrs. Bush evidently handled it with grace and kindness. They are to be commended for that. Even if the crowd today was not prepared to thank President Bush for his "service" to our country, we should at least thank him for stepping aside gracefully.
We live in a country where the former leaders and the future leaders agree that the symbolism of unity is more important than their individual differences.
I admit to being a sucker for ritual (must be something about that Roman Catholic upbringing), but the ritual of our Inaugural Ceremony makes me want to stand up and cheer. I don't care about the parade and I have zero interest in the fancy balls tonight. Tomorrow, I hope the folks in Washington get up, take an aspirin for their hangovers and, then, get the hell to work.
Today, however, is a day for a huge national celebration. It is not a day of gloating about Obama's victory over the right-wing wackos who have tried to ruin our Country. It is also not a day of vindication for black folks who feel their time has finally come (although, I understand why they would feel that way). For me, Inauguration Day
in America is about celebrating America, regardless of who the guy (or woman) is whom we are inaugurating into office. The millions of people who gathered on America's Front Yard (aka "The Mall") stood in for the rest of us as witnesses to the symbolism and the ritual of the peaceful transition of power in a free country where the rule of law applies. It is about leadership elected by the majority of the led. It is about checks and balances and the balance of power. (Thank you Jimmy Madison!) Inauguration Day is America at its very, very, very best.
I have watched the inaugurations of Kennedy, Johnson (twice), Nixon (twice), Ford, Carter, Reagan (twice), Bush I, Clinton (twice), and Bush II (twice), and now Obama. Whether I liked the new president or not I have never failed to be moved by the fact that our country can transfer power in such a peaceful and orderly -- not to mention inspiring and beautiful -- manner. Yes, We Can!
Now, let's see if we can help our new president turn our ship of state in a new direction and get down to the business of digging ourselves out of the ditch his predecessor put us in.
Post Script: Extra special Kudos to Senator Feinstein for her effecient and professional service as the M.C.
I have been resisting the urge to write about the Inauguration for several reasons. One is that I am sorely tempted to toss off one last lurid anti-Bush screed. While he no doubt deserves it, I am determined not to do that. The sun set tonight on the Bush Administration. Tomorrow it will be a New Day in America. I want to let the past go.
The second reason I have been avoiding writing about the election is that I don't want to allow myself to get carried away with my joy at the fact that We The People appear to be on the verge of taking back our country from those who would have destroyed the very things we hold dearest: Freedom of Speech; Freedom of Religion; Due Process; The Rule of Law. Liberty and Justice -- for ALL. As joyful and hopeful as I feel tonight, I believe that we must be very careful not to expect too much of President Obama too soon. He has inherited an unholy mess. He will need time to get acclimated to his new job. He will need our permission to try things that will fail, and then to try something new. We have to allow for a learning curve once he assumes office.
It will very likely be years before this country can be turned around and put back on the right track. President Obama won't be able to do it all by himself. He can lead us, but we have to follow, and participate, and cooperate. And, yes, By God, we'll have to SACRIFICE. The next two to three years will be very hard. I imagine the economy will get worse before it gets better. Americans are not patient people. I am very afraid that if we let ourselves get carried away by our joy now, we will expect too much, too soon, and the nation that called Barack Obama to lead it could turn on him in a minute. I don't want to contribute to that.
Cautious optimism is called for now. We need to be moderate in our celebrations, and in our expectations.
My head knows that.
But, oh, my Lord, my heart has totally different ideas!!!
When I see a man stand up before his country and say "Yes, We Can!" despite all the obstacles, I want to stand up and shout. When I hear a moderate, intelligent, and clear voice call us forward to a new day, I want to follow, with jubilation. It's going to be a long, hard road, but we've made the first step.
After the ordeal of the last eight years, that, all by itself, is enough to make me stand up and shout: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God, Almighty, we are free at last." (Happy Birthday, Rev. King!)
I don't do much in the way of "intentional praying" any more (although I do tend to have a sort of subliminal conversation with The Holy going on more or less constantly). In recent years, that subliminal conversation has often been along the lines of "Lord, have mercy on us." In coming months and years, I hope to change my tune to "Strengthen him (and us), Oh, Lord".
I don't know how it will come to pass or how long it will take, but for the first time in years, tonight I am allowing myself to feel a tiny spark of Hope for my country. I can feel Hope because I believe in the power of Grace. And, Grace is the only explanation for the fact that tomorrow night this time Barack Obama will be our president, and the scoundrels who have been trying to destroy our way of life are scurrying away to crawl back under whatever rocks they climed out from.
God have mercy on our new President, and on all of us.
I know that I have had meltdowns in my life over things that, in retrospect, appeared to be blown out of proportion. I know that those times occurred fairly frequently during the teen years (and daily -- or more often -- during pregnancy). I still have a meltdown once or twice a year (usually once at work and once at home). [I hate melting down at work; it's so very undignified.]
But, I don't think I have ever in my life melted down with the drama and flair my Daughter Dear exhibits when she has a tantrum. She can go ballistic over small things (takes after her father, she does). Slightly more significant problems can rival Chernobyl. Today we encountered a Really, Really Big Thing. I missed the worst of the drama, but it must have been really bad, given the way my Dear Husband and the Very Bad Dogs were behaving when I got home from work.
DD is going to a wedding tomorrow. A fancy wedding. Wonderful BoyFriend's entire family will be there. DD, of course, bought a new dress for the occasion. She paid way too much for it, even on sale. I know that because she bought it at the last minute (when you always pay too much). Also, she won't tell me how much she paid for it...... on account of, if she did, she knows I would go ballistic, and one conniption fit at a time is sort of a good rule to follow.
Anyway, she had a brand new dress, which was quite lovely. She was excited. She was ready for her weekend of family festivities with The Most Wonderful Family on Earth (that is not an attempt at sarcasm: they really are a wonderful family). She was all set.
However, late this afternoon disaster struck. I am not sure exactly how it happened (I was afraid to ask) but somehow it came to pass that Wonderful BoyFriend accidentally broke the zipper on the fabulous new dress. Her outrageously expensive dress was equipped with one of those crappy plastic zippers that ought to be illegal. Any company that would charge more than $20 for a dress with a side zipper made out of plastic should be ashamed. Some of the older plastic zippers could be fixed. This was a cheesy, cheap, crappy new plastic zipper. It was hopeless. The dress was fit only for a dust cloth.
She called the store. They agreed take it back (even though it was on sale), but they did not have any other dresses like it at the sale price. The hour was late. She probably would not have been able to get to the mall in Orlando before the store close, anyway. We considered various options: Pins; Sewing the side closed. We decided that invasive procedures were not acceptable, because we want to return the dress and if we damaged it further our chances of getting the money back would be eliminated.
I decided the only option was wearing something she already has, and, to that end, I pulled a bunch of other dresses out of her closet. DD has enough clothes to start a freaking chain store! She has some beautiful clothes. I pulled out at least three outfits I thought would be lovely. I pulled out a couple of dresses I didn't even know she had, and that I coveted immediately upon seeing them.
Wearing something she already owned would not do, of course. (What was I thinking??) Ultimately she decided that, since it is very cold this weekend in Central Florida (relatively speaking) she will put a sweater over the dress and wear it with the side gaping open. She will take an alternative dress to change into for the reception, if she feels uncomfortable. That seemed like a reasonable compromise, I suppose. (Wearing something beautiful you have worn before would have been a better one, but I'm 54 and she's 19. That must make a difference.)
A little while ago, DD and WBF headed off for their weekend of celebration, exhausted and emotionally drained.
DH had flown the coop earlier in the evening. The dogs and I are here, traumatized and drained.
The other evening I had the opportunity to have dinner at The Lady and Sons in Savannah, Georgia. I was looking forward to it because I love watching Paula Deen on the Food Channel. Well, I don't really love watching her, because she's so loud and annoying, but I like the fact that her recipes often modernize the traditional Southern food I grew up on. I was very excited about the opportunity to eat at her restaurant. I expected to enjoy food with an interesting twist on traditional Southern food.
Because we were a very large group, we were not given the option to order some of the really cool food from the menu. We were only given the option of helping ourselves from the buffet. I was not thrilled by that, but I was with a group, and I did not plan the event, so I did not complain.
They seated us at a large table in the very back of the restaurant, up against the windows. Getting to the buffet was very inconvenient for the people at the back of the table. The table and chairs were very rustic, and quite uncomfortable. There were no table cloths. The plates sat on paper doilies. The napkins were paper. The plates were pottery. Most of our party ordered beer. They didn't bring glasses (even though I asked for one). Ordinarily, none of that would have been a problem for me. Hell, my idea of fine dining is bars that serve my beer in glass mugs as opposed to plastic. My problem was that the bars where I usually eat cost less than $10 a plate. Our meal was $25 a head. For $25, I want a glass for my beer and a cloth napkin!!
Next they brought bread. We each got a biscuit and a hoecake. The biscuit was okay, but very small. The hoecake was just nasty; it was greasy and otherwise tasteless. I am a bread eater. I was not happy about the bread. Things were not looking good.
We took turns at the buffet. The meat options consisted of fried chicken, pork chops and pot roast. I don't like fried chicken; I passed on that. If I'm going to eat pork, I want it to be pulled pork with barbecue sauce, pork roast with some awesome glaze or crisp bacon. Otherwise, I pass on pork. I make great pot roast, and I could tell by looking at the gravy that Paula's roast would not pass muster with me. I decided to skip the meat. No points off for that. I usually skip the meat at a buffet so as to save room for the best part of any meal -- the "go withs."
The starch options included mashed potatoes (presumably for Yankees who don't know any better) and perfectly cooked long grain white rice. I made a bed of that on my plate to hold the veggies.
Veggies were: stewed cabbage, black-eyed peas, baby Lima's, collard greens, and green beans. At the end of the line were the signature candied yams (without the marshmallows, thank you, Paula) and mac 'n' cheese.
I skipped the collard greens (I vowed when I left home I would never eat collard greens or turnips again, and I have kept that promise for more than 35 years) and the green beans (also not a fave with me). I loaded up on cabbage, peas and Lima's (the latter of which is my favorite veggie in all the world). I tried a yam.
I debated about the mac 'n' cheese. Somewhere along the line in my life, somebody gave me the world's greatest mac 'n' cheese recipe. My family loves it. People invite me to potlucks and request it. The first time I saw Paula Deen on TV she made her mac 'n' cheese. I tried the recipe, and my entire family agreed that mine is better. I took some of Paula's just to taste. It was good. Mine is definitely better. Daughter Dear and Wonderful Boyfriend agreed, but they said they liked the fact that she puts that layer of grated cheese on top. I can do that. I will do that next time I make mac 'n' cheese. Then mine will be totally perfect!
Everything tasted wonderful! The cabbage, peas and Lima's were perfect. I loved the yam, which was not adulterated with (nasty) marshmallows. The mac 'n' cheese was better than when I made Paula's recipe of it, but not as good as my recipe.
Dessert options were: peach cobbler, some chocolate brownie thing, and banana pudding. I was disappointed that there was no rice pudding or bread pudding. I opted for the peach cobbler. It tasted like butter! It needed ice cream or at least a glass of milk to cut the richness. It was good, but way to rich for my blood, literally.
All in all, it tasted exactly like dinner at my mother's house on any given Sunday when I was a kid, or at my house when I get a hankering for Southern cooking.
After dinner, we went into Paula's store. The store is bigger than the restaurant, which is probably the whole point. I looked around, but ultimately decided not to buy anything. I already know how to make all those Southern specialties, and I prepare them for my family on a regular basis. I decided that $25 for a meal of rice and veggies with a dollop of peach cobbler at the end was profit enough for Miss Paula.
Bottom line: The Lady and Sons serves perfectly prepared Southern comfort food that is sinfully overpriced. If you grew up on Southern cooking, but do not cook yourself, it might be worth it for the sake of sentiment. Otherwise, I'm sorry to say, I thought The Lady and Sons was kind of a rip off.
I love the New Year. The darkest part of the year is past. With each day, there is more sunlight. That turning point is very significant for a person who suffers from SADD. Typically I don't actually start to feel better until near the end of February. It helps (a little) to know, intellectually, this time of the year that the days are growing longer. The Wheel of Life had turned and a new adventure has begun.
Christmas may not be a big deal to me any more, but the New Year is a moment to stop, think, reflect and contemplate the meaning of it all.
In the meantime, I'm off for another quick business trip for the remainder of the week.