I try not to get into a discussion about politics with my father or my younger brother Kristoffer. They’re both extreme realists, standing at the borderline of pessimism in regards to politicians, laws and regulations. Before you know it, they’ve plummeted themselves into a rant about injustices and hypocrisy. I don’t necessary disagree, but I don’t see much point in getting worked up about politics. Men (and women) of power tend to be corrupt, selfish and more often than we like to see, sleazy. Even politicians in Sweden are corrupt, and the majority of the world views my homeland as “a place with green, fluffy grass, ponies, glitter and unicorns,” so that should say something. My point is, politics are never going to be pretty. Period.
Obama might be a good man. I don’t know that for a fact, so I’m saying “might,” but my instinct does tell me that his intentions are honorable. I think he is doing the best he can to correct eight years of George Bush’s golf vacation, and yes, like everyone else, he has made mistakes and misjudged time-commitment. It takes about twice the amount of time to correct a sovereign mistake as it took to make the mistake (mistakes in this case). Obama should have expected that the opposite party would — excuse me — cock-block every idea he laid out, even when they were good ideas. I wish he could have used Biden a bit more, because I personally think Biden is a bad-ass and bad-asses know how to put people in their place. The way things run in Washington is saddening, too slow and impractical. Of course, even I, the optimist, will begin to feel a wave of doubt and faint disappointment whenever I hear or read Obama’s name.
When I read in The New York Times weeks ago about them having a poet at the inauguration, I was thrilled, but also — yet again — skeptical. I love how Obama has brought more diversity into office — a land full of white men, with white hair and phony, white ideas. (That’s another thing that pushes my father’s buttons: the fact that the same men who opposed equal rights for black people during the Civil Right Movement still have their “deflating, double-moral asses” planted in the Senate.) However, now I want more than hope and diversity. Once I finished reading about Richard Blanco, whom by the way is a very interesting man himself, I sat in front of my computer for a while, contemplating my feelings. The only thing I could think of was the word *”safety net.” Then I moved on and didn’t think about it again until yesterday.
I missed the inauguration, because I was working a six-hour shift, but once I got back to my dorm, I watched Blanco online recite his poem. I remembered thinking at that moment that he’d said to the Times the poem wasn’t going to be about gay rights or about being a Latino immigrant. It was going to be more open, easily related-to by the entire audience. I listened in anticipation and a smile grew on my face as Blanco captured everyone with his beautiful words. He performed it so well; it was amazing how he spoke with such presence, which I honestly hadn’t expected from an engineer-turned-poet. It was that kind of piece of art that basically assembled the very essence of a day in America. I think every single person in this country can put themselves in some, if not most of the pictures he painted for us. I admire how he managed to point to many different kinds of people in his poem and how the mention of the sky, the light and the moon worked together as a metaphor to say that… well, that there is something bigger than us, we are sharing this land, we are struggling with the same basic issues daily, we are the same.
What really got to me were:
“My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:”
“Breathe. Hear it
through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.”
Partially because I think about those two things almost daily; the yawning and how I must get up early no matter what, and [breathe] how little I am among the noise and movement around me. Partially because nothing reminds me of Obama, or the past four years, or the eight years before that. Nothing was about politics, just about the people in America and I think we all needed to be reminded that this is the United States of America. That we need to hold on to each other. I think it’s really important now after all that’s happened in the past year, with the shootings and tragedies. In regards to those events, Blanco said,
“…the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever.”
The poem has not magically made everything alright, of course, but it has marked a turning point. Obama’s second round has officially begun, and with Blanco’s comforting words, I believe that despite the politics, we are going to be okay.
Poet’s Kinship with the President, The New York Times
Inauguration poem, video, transcript
*”Safety-net” is the simile to “comfort zone” and to me, it seemed that Obama was sticking to being the “diverse, cool” president as I read the article. Being diverse and cool isn’t bad, but as said, I want more from a leader.
**This blog entry was written for ‘Writing for Mass Media,’ JRN202, at Central Michigan University.