“We Were All There”: Thoughts on the Inauguration
Like most of the country, I spent Tuesday following the ritual inauguration in our nation’s capitol on a variety of media. As any reader of this blog knows, though I voted for Obama, I have criticized the way his campaign marginalized the issue of domestic and global poverty and the other ways that his campaign ignored rather than challenged the most destructive aspects of Empire America. But today I want to celebrate just how important his election is for this country and the world.
Dignity and community – these are the essential elements of transcending the ravages of poverty; these are the essence of a good life, the things that have most tragically been destroyed by the economic and social marginalization of the poor. The remarkable campaign and election of Barack Hussein Obama embodied and articulated the hope and long struggle of marginalized people for dignity and equality in this country and around the world. Thus, though we will have to work hard to push Obama toward the real change we need, it may be that Obama has already done more to lift up the poor than any other president.
I watched the inauguration and speech in awe. But the most moving moment for me was NPR’s story about Ella Mae Johnson, the 105-year-old African American woman from Cleveland who braved the bitter cold and winds huddled in a sleeping bag to see the inauguration in person. Thinking of all of the painful history that her long life embodies as a witness to this moment cracked me wide open. I cried. Her words were simple, but seemed to sum up the hope and redemption of the moment:
We were all there; we were there waiting. It didn’t matter what my color was. It didn’t matter what your color was. And I could not ask for anything better.”