On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp ...

The words in the title are from the last lines of Elizabeth Alexander's inaugural poem, Praise Song For the Day.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.

This morning we splurged on coffee and scones to accompany the inaugural events. We tucked the Oregonian out of sight for the moment. (We'll get back to Sam another day; this is not a day for feeling disappointed in our leaders). Tonight we opened a celebratory bottle of champagne to toast the President and First Lady (imagine that!) dancing at one of the many balls capping this historic day.

I should be writing something benedictory, solemn and congratulatory. Instead, I'll just share a few of my random observations from the day.

(1) Dick Cheney arrived in a wheelchair, reportedly because he hurt his back moving boxes. Carrying files from his office to the incinerator perhaps? I hate to kick the man in pain (though he's accustomed to inflicting pain), but can't help but point out his resemblance to old man Potter from It's a Wonderful Life.

(2) During NBC's coverage, anchor Pete Williams* provided viewers with interesting insights into President Obama's personal aide, Reggie Love (top photo). Unfortunately, this was while the camera was showing footage of Michelle Obama's brother Craig Robinson (bottom photo) at the inauguration. When Mr. Williams eventually realized his error, he tried to cover by saying that his "good friend" Reggie was on his mind because they had been chatting earlier that morning. Oops. * CORRECTION: This morning, my wife pointed out that it was BRIAN Williams who made the mistake ...you know, all those white newscasters look the same to me.

(3) Barack Obama flubbed his lines while taking the oath. Wait ... I mean Chief Justice Roberts screwed them up. The President (for he was already in that role as soon it was noon) handled it with equanimity and followed along with a smile. According to the Constitution, the oath reads: "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Roberts put "faithfully" in the wrong place. Do you suppose some nutbag right-wingers are going to try making a case that Obama isn't really President because he didn't give the proper oath? UPDATE: My observant wife has informed me that this argument has indeed started to spread. UPDATE 2: A colleague informed me that President Obama redid the oath today just to make sure he was swearing properly.

(4) After the oath of office, the camera zoomed in on Joe Biden taking a picture with a little digital camera. I wanted to shout "Joe, you're the frigging Vice President now!" But then I realized he was using Malia Obama's camera, taking the picture for her because she was stuck in the second row. How sweet is that? I'll bet they call him "Uncle Joe."

(5) The Queen of Soul! With her rendition of "America the Beautiful," Aretha Franklin proved that she's more than a fabulous voice -- she is a truly great stylist and interpreter.

(6) Tonight, at one of the inaugural balls, Joe Biden quoted an excerpt from Doubletake, a section of Seamus Heaney's poem The Cure at Troy. I looked it up and decided to post the whole section (Biden quoted the third stanza):

Human beings suffer,
they torture one another,
they get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
can fully right a wrong
inflicted and endured.

The innocent in gaols
beat on their bars together.
A hunger-striker's father
stands in the graveyard dumb.
The police widow in veils
faints at the funeral home.

History says, Don't hope
on this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
the longed for tidal wave
of justice can rise up,
and hope and history rhyme.
So hope for a great sea-change
on the far side of revenge.

Believe that a further shore
is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
and cures and healing wells.

Call the miracle self-healing:
The utter self-revealing
double-take of feeling.
if there's fire on the mountain
or lightning and storm
and a god speaks from the sky.

That means someone is hearing
the outcry and the birth-cry
of new life at its term.

(7) Elizabeth Alexander's inaugural poem was simple, direct and perfect for the occasion. I thought she read it beautifully, with a careful, deliberate pacing and without Angelou-ish inflections to distract from the words.

(8) Reverend Joseph Lowery's benediction was another beautiful work of poetry, starting with "God of our weary years, God of our silent tears," and ending with

"...help us work for that day when black will not be asked to give back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right."

Predictably, cries of outrage are already being heard about how the last phrase inappropriately injected racism into the proceedings. Some will try to do to Reverend Lowery what they did to Reverend Wright. Let's ignore them this time.

That's all. I'm proud to be an American today.


Anonymous said...

Obama's inauguration speech didn't come a moment too soon. I was still feeling depressed after hearing Bush's farewell address. I don't know if you saw it, but the gist of it was as follows.

"I know you guys are really happy to see me go but . . . uh, remember 9/11? Remember how you guys were scared of those terrorists across the sea? Well, they're still scary (even though Iraq is our new BFF)! Be very afraid. So, don't forget how I stopped those scary bad guys pulling another 9/11. I'm pretty sure Obama can't protect you like I have, and one day you'll all be sorry for saying all those mean things about me. Oh, by the way, I really do like Mexicans, just in case you were wondering."

Thoroughly depressing.

It feels almost surreal now to have a president that we don't have to apologize for.

MightyToyCannon said...

Thanks for commenting Allie. I missed Bush's farewell address. I simply had no interest in hearing him any more. I knew what he would be saying and could predict the inflections and the facial expressions. I caught a bit of his last press conference. I hadn't heard the question or the preceding comments, but instantly thought he looked deranged. I thought, "This is Presidential??" Contrast that with President Obama's demeanor and thoughtfulness! Obama will have failures and missteps, but what a change we're going to see.

Unknown said...

It strikes me that we can thank George Bush the Younger for one thing: He's reminded us that it's important to be able to admire and respect our president. This isn't a matter of blind patriotism. One can, and should, disagree with specific aspects of the course of national events. I expect to disagree with certain decisions that President Obama will make. But, George, thank you for bringing us back to the realization that for representative democracy to work, the public must have respect for and trust in its leaders, as our leaders must have respect for and trust in the public. (And, you're right: Sam Adams, in choosing to lie when he had the chance to tell the truth, seems not to understand this.) One thing about Obama that gives me hope is his apparent belief in respectful disagreement. (If you disagree with this little ramble, please do so respectfully!)

MightyToyCannon said...

Bob, I agree with your ramble wholeheartedly! I may have more to say about our Sam later, though I'm not sure what contributing to the din will do. My current thinking about it is related to this question of trust and respect -- also the delicate balance between confidence and hubris. I certainly don't know what the next step ought to be.