Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

"A battle lost or won is easily described, understood, and appreciated, but the moral growth of a great nation requires reflection, as well as observation, to appreciate it," - Frederick Douglass.

I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out why I did not go to Washington DC for the inaugural festivities.  I had the time and the resources and the desire. But, in the end, I made a choice not to go. I decided that I needed to spend some time readying myself for a new semester at school; tying up loose ends on over due work projects, cleaning and organizing the clutter in my home, acclimating to a new computer and work station, reading, writing, and spending time alone, in reflection.

Over a decade ago, while a student in an Experimental Theatre Program, I boarded a bus to DC with two classmates I hardly knew.  We had no set plans as to where we would stay or how we would get around, but we knew that there was an experience to be had and a movement to join. The mall was to be covered by the world's largest quilt, one so large, in fact, it wold never be shown again in its entirety. The AIDS quilt was beyond anything I had ever seen and the impact of that experience has never left me. We marched in silence with hundreds of other people, holding candles, holding hands.  There was a concert, speeches. I was part of the collective; we sang "We shall Overcome."

Perhaps I've had my moment, perhaps I don't need another.  Perhaps I've aged and lost my spontaneity.  Perhaps my need for comfort and solitude has trumped my need to experience things communally.  Or perhaps I feared the extremity of emotion that such a trip would invoke.

I am here in my living room, in warm pajamas sipping my freshly brewed Pete's coffee. I have WNYC on the radio and the muted images of CNN on the screen. I am filtering the stimuli and thereby controlling my reactions. Moderating my tears with my need to follow through on my responsibilities and work obligations.

A reoccurring theme in the rhetoric of Obama is the idea that individual responsibility and the need to better oneself leads to the betterment of the community. Amen. To the best of my ability, I've been preaching and practicing this for years.  And every day, every decision, perhaps even the one to stay in New York and honor this day on my own terms, brings me closer to the sort of self-actualization that can truly make a difference.

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