Thursday, January 22, 2009

Dancing into history

Like pretty much everyone else, I watched the Inauguration on Tuesday and was tremendously moved by the power of the occasion. (I credit Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma for reducing me to a blubbering mess, though I wasn't far from there to start with.)

Later in the evening, I did something I have never done before on an Inauguration Day: I watched a couple hours of the coverage of the inaugural balls. The Obamas looked, dare I say it, completely adorable as they danced together. Like many people in this country right now, I'm a little bit in love with them, with the whole family (Sasha and Malia are just so completely beautiful!). And I recognize that part of what I'm in love with is the illusion of them, not the reality of the fallible, imperfect human beings who will inevitably screw up at some point (being President, and even being First Lady, is like being a parent; it's just such a huge job that it's not possible to do it without screwing up somewhere along the way). But I think I, and maybe we, need that illusion right now, the illusion of the shiny happy perfect family and the visionary leader who will haul us up from the crappy place we've fallen into. It's been so long since I felt any kind of real affection for the occupants of the White House, and I need to feel this for a little while, just as an antidote to these last few poisoned years.

I never really understood how people just a couple of decades older than me felt about the Kennedys, back in the "Camelot" days -- until now. I think how I feel about the Obama family is probably a lot like what folks my parents' age (I was born in 1961, same as President Obama) felt about the Kennedy family. Except, of course, that when JFK took office, you couldn't sit there and watch the inaugural balls live on your TV until the wee hours. (And everyone criticizing Michelle's dress can just hush. She would look graceful and elegant in a paper bag, and she looked absolutely fine in that dress.)

Later on, I watched an online video of the Obamas dancing at one of the balls -- not the ballroom dancing with each other, but cutting loose a bit and dancing with the crowd. And there was Barack, big as life, DOING THE BUMP. If ever there was a moment that really drove home for me the fact that he and I are exactly the same age, it was that. Barack, Barack, Barack. You and I both know that we danced that way in the Seventies, and I love you to death, Mr. President, but could we possibly just consider LEAVING that stuff back in the Seventies?


Yes, it's blowing my mind a little bit that the President is exactly my age -- about two months younger, to be precise. He and I have had very very different lives, of course, but just by virtue of sharing some of the same cultural milestones -- the assassinations of MLK and JFK are some of my earlier vivid memories, for example, and my childhood was punctuated by Walter Cronkite on the evening news announcing how many American casualties there'd been that day in Vietnam; I vividly remember the day I learned what the word "casualty" meant -- it makes him seem more human to me than previous Presidents somehow. The night before the inauguration, I had a little trouble falling asleep (experiencing a bit of that "Christmas eve too excited to sleep" sensation) and it occurred to me that he was probably lying in bed wide awake, wide-eyed in the dark, silently imagining what the next day -- and the next four or hopefully eight years -- might be like. I've never really thought about a President in those little moments of humanity, before.

Nah, from what I've seen of him, he's the epitome of calmness and control. He was probably sleeping like a baby. :)

Anyway. This isn't a blog about politics, or rockstar celebrity Presidents. It's supposed to be a blog about poetry, and writing. So to that end, I will say that the other evening I finally got some poems sent out to a couple of places, for the first time in quite a few months. (I've been sending out the book manuscript, but not individual poems lately.) It felt pretty good. And I'm mulling over a possible grant application, as well -- which will have to be done this weekend if I'm going to do it (eek). Maybe I'm just a little bit inspired, seeing what somebody my age can achieve with a lot of really hard work (okay, in his case it's also involved just a wee bit of brilliance, talent, timing, and luck). Maybe I'm feeling like it's a little bit okay to believe right now.

And so it is.


Montgomery Maxton said...

it was a great day wasn't it.

Anonymous said...

so awesome! It trips me out, too, to knwo that the president is my contemporary...YIKES! So good though. And he's gotten off to such a good strong start!

Didn't you get tripped out though, the way rick warren said "SA-SHA, and MAH-LEEE-YA!"

So weird.

Lisa Nanette Allender said...

Hi Anne, I love this post! Been out-of-it while recovering from major surgery, but YEAH! I totally am with ya on the connection with THIS President(though I'm a bit older than ya'll). It is amazing to feel such closeness--true "intimacy" with the occupants of 1600 Penn...
Hugs and Peace to you!
scary word-verification:

Duncan Mitchel said...

What freaks me out is that I'm older than the President of the United States. That's a first in my life, and it marks some kind of turning point, though I don't know what kind.

I didn't watch the inauguration nor any coverage of the balls, but I'll have to see if I can find the video of Obama doing the bump. We did that in my day too.

Obama seems like a charming person, and I'm sure I'd like him if I ever met him. But I don't feel any closeness, let alone "intimacy" with him-as-President, nor do I want to, nor can I see why anyone would want to. I'm baffled by people who want to see the President, or Princess Di, or whoever, as their imaginary best friend, but I am of course weird, and I know that.

What matters to me is what he'll do as President, and he's already off to a mixed start. What bothers me is that so many people get so focused on personalities and can't or won't look at the job a person is doing. Back in 2000 or 2001 I worked with a student who told me that she didn't want to discuss George W. Bush as President because she'd met him at a state dinner while he was governor of Texas, and liked him, thought he was a nice person. That's nice, but if you can't look past or around the personality of a politician (or scholar, or many other kinds of job) and focus on his or her work, something is wrong.