Those Hovercrafts

Floating with intention

Everything Old Is New Again

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Inauguration Nation

Again we wait. We wait for four years, for policies, for wars and peaces. A country celebrates things staying the same.

It’s not the same the second time, of course. It could never be. Nothing ever is. The magic is gone, replaced by reality of politics and economics and the existence of violence both interpersonal and international. Things are hard. The luster has been gone for a long time.

But that doesn’t make it any less anything. The people come by the hundreds of thousands to see a man give a speech and raise his right hand on a book (two, in this case). They wear shirts and hats and buttons with his name and visage. They come early and stay late, gladly standing in line, then in a crowd in the cold, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of others, then suffering the lines and crowds to get back home. They travel for hours to wait for hours. “It’s not fun,” says one. “But it’s meaningful. It’s important. Momentous. I had to be here. But no, I didn’t have fun.”  The majesty is still real. The parts that could never go away, they’re still there. In the meantime people wait. But the spiritual parts, the inspiration and the symbols, that stuff hasn’t changed.

So the crowds wait. They read a book or newspaper they brought, munch on peanut butter sandwiches made in the early morning hours. They look at other people, one man climbing a tree, another who may have been on television at one time. I think I see someone I saw in a movie once taking a picture of the crowd, but then I lose him before I can confirm. It’s cold, and it starts out and ends in the dark. But before it returns to darkness the sun comes out. It rises over the Capitol and warms everything. It is, for moments, a revelation. Then the sun again disappears behind a thin monotonous layer of cloud, invisible in the sky except for the shadow. The chill returns.

A children’s chorus sings, mournful and pleasant. It’s lovely, as the sun slowly rises and warms the Mall. There are solos, though, children singing before a national stage, in the early morning cold, throats tense. What a cruel task to ask of them. Celebrities start to arrive, haltingly. The people waiting gawk at then. The singers pose for photos, kindly. The comedian keeps his headphones in his ears. One talks to a reporter about his commitment to the cause. A Jumbotron ahead flashes shots of the crowd. Looking back, on the thousands spread down to the marble monuments to great men, it seems everyone has a flag. They wave.

A woman in a wheelchair throws up her fist when the president becomes visible on a screen, from inside the Capitol building. “Whoo!” she yells, at the top of her lungs. She beats her arm against the sky and shouts again. When the president is announced and emerges the audience claps violently, but everyone is wearing gloves. The applause is muted. They chant for a moment, before the band strikes up again.

The small drama of people among crowds tends to overwhelm the action onstage. A line of people stand, blocking a view for those sitting behind them. They refuse to move, even after the old lady next to me asks them nicely. “Unbelievable,” she mutters, then glares at the man in the earmuffs in front of her. He stands cuddled with his female partner, much younger and prettier than he is, in a pink overcoat and wool earmuffs. Out if the corner of my eye I think I see him flip off the old lady. He mouths “fuck you,” I’m almost sure, though I’m watching the action onstage and am not devoting my full attention. I feel obligated, as men sometimes do, to say something. To do something. I do nothing, say nothing, as men sometimes do.

The president speaks but it’s hard to keep track of his words. He promises some things and calls arms to others. I find out later it is a grand speech, but in the moment I focus more on the people around me and what the man in the earmuffs may have said to the old lady. I am not a good judge of speeches.

When it is over, again we wait. We huddle in lines, in crowds, headed towards exists that seem never to emerge. We wait for the bottlenecks to clear, for the waist-high gates to become visible beyond the crowds. We wait, together. Then, once out, we wait more.


Written by thosehovercrafts

January 22, 2013 at 7:04 am

Posted in Travelogue

Tagged with , , , ,

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