Watering Hole: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 – Inauguration 2009

I was there.  I saw it happen.  I was part of the crowd.  There were tears; tears of joy, tears of relief, and tears of love.  It was hard to believe that it had finally happened.

It all began when I was given two blue tickets to the inauguration of Barack Obama.  I shared these tickets with a friend whose mother owned a townhouse in Alexandria, VA.  She offered us a place to stay so that it would be easy to get into D.C. to witness this monumental event.

We started out on that historic morning by taking a taxi that was suppose to take us into D.C.  The taxi driver believed that he couldn’t cross any of the bridges to get into the city so he dropped us off at the train station in Alexandria.  Every train that stopped at the station was packed and it was impossible to get onto the train.  Since the trains traveling in the opposite direction were almost empty, we decided that we would take one of those trains and do the loop.  It would mean an extra 15 minutes but at least we were on a train.  At the end of the line, the train filled up with people that had arrived on buses from all across the nation.  The good people that stood near us on the train were from Minnesota.  It took them two and a half days of traveling to get to D.C.

When we finally arrived in D.C., we went to the area outside the entrance for the blue ticket holders.  There were hundreds of people gathered there and we became part of the crowd.  At 9:30, the gates were opened so that people could get in.  Needless to say, the crowd moved very slowly.  It was 11:35 when we finally reached the cattle chute and we were pushed in by the crowd and told to go to the scanners.  There was little time for scanning or searching our bags so security waved us through and told us to hurry.

When we got closer to the Capitol, we saw thousands and thousands of people gathered on the lawns, on the sidewalks and on the streets looking in the direction of the Capitol steps.  There had to be at least one million people crowded together looking towards Barack Obama.  From where I was standing, the President appeared to be about six inches tall. I perused the area and saw the “jumbotrons”.  These were the biggest screens that I have ever seen and they were everywhere.

Barack Obama was sworn into office and after he gave his address, the crowd went wild.  Everyone was hugging each other.  Standing next to me was a black woman who was about my age (I’m a white, young senior).  Tears were rolling down her face.  They were streaming down my cheeks, too.  We looked at each other, smiled, and then hugged each other.

This is where the real story takes place.  This stranger and myself lived through the challenge of opposing segregation during the ’60’s.  We witnessed blacks being beaten, and repelled with water from fire hoses.  We saw blacks being spit on as they walked into previously ‘whites only’ schools.  We heard the slurs and the name calling.  People died fighting for equal rights.

As a white person, I won’t pretend to know what it feels like to be a black person living in a society that dislikes you just because of the color of your skin.  I can only imagine how painful it must feel to see people cross to the other side of the street when they see you walking down the sidewalk or how hurtful it must feel when someone refuses to shake your hand or to sit next to you.  When Barack Obama became President Barack Obama, I thought that our nation had finally matured and would become integrated.  Was I in for a surprise.

Racism didn’t depart after the passage of the Civil Rights Act.  It only went into hiding.    A black man holding one of the most powerful positions in the world has brought the racists to the forefront.  This is a good thing as we now know who they are.  We are seeing faces and we have the power to stand up to them as we must speak the truth and confront them, always.

The inauguration of President Barack Obama was an exciting event.  As I was leaving the Capitol grounds and standing on the curb waiting to cross the street, two black SUV’s with the license plate number “2” on it, passed by.  We all booed because we knew that Dick Cheney was in one of those SUV’s.

Next Tuesday, we will have reason to celebrate again.  This time I will be watching the events of the day from my home.

This is our Open Thread.  That is my story.  It was long.  Now it’s time for me to let you Speak Up! Continue reading

A Very Bad Year

Truthout, by William Rivers Pitt

The year 2008 began on a Tuesday. Matters went downhill swiftly from there.

On that first day of 2008, the Taliban threatened to further escalate attacks in Afghanistan, eight people died in Gaza amid the violence of the Fatah-Hamas conflict and US diplomat John Granville was murdered along with his driver in Sudan. After that first day of 2008, the price of crude oil jumped to $100 a barrel, five armed Iranian boats confronted US warships near the Strait of Hormuz and a Taliban attack upon the Serena Hotel in Kabul killed six people. The Pentagon announced they were sending an additional 3,200 marines to Afghanistan, the year’s first significant stock market convulsion brought the Dow down 482 points, Barack Obama won Iowa and South Carolina, Clinton won New Hampshire and Florida and George W. Bush delivered the last State of the Union address of his presidency. Edmund Hillary died, Bobby Fischer died and Heath Ledger died. Forty American soldiers died in Iraq, seven American soldiers died in Afghanistan, and that’s not nearly all that happened, but that’s some of what happened in January of 2008.

At least 43 people were killed in Baghdad when bombs exploded in two marketplaces, the US military admitted accidentally killing nine civilians south of Baghdad and George W. Bush introduced a $3.1 trillion budget on top of a near-record deficit of $410 billion. Tornados killed 57 people in the Southern US, a $158 billion economic stimulus package failed to pass a procedural vote, but a subsequent $168 billion stimulus package was successfully passed. Hamas launched 20 rockets into Israel, a suicide bomber killed 20 people at a political rally in Pakistan and a car bomb killed 25 people in Iraq. The US Congress voted in favor of granting immunity to the telecommunications companies involved in the NSA surveillance scandal, voted against letting the CIA use “waterboarding” while interrogating prisoners and voted to hold Bush administration officials Harriet Miers and Joshua Bolten in contempt regarding the fired US attorneys scandal. Obama won a bunch of states, Clinton won a bunch of other states and Ralph Nader got into the race. Roy Scheider and William F. Buckley died. Twenty-nine American soldiers died in Iraq, one American soldier died in Afghanistan, and that’s not nearly all that happened, but that’s some of what happened in February of 2008.

If you have the stomach for it, go read about the rest of the year here.

I need a drink…