Sunday, January 25, 2009

Hard to be a saint

This is the shirt I wore on Inauguration Day.

Now, normally I don't like to wear political slogans on my person. And I get self-conscious grouping myself with what I (judgmentally) consider to be the kind of people who wear t-shirts like these. "Change the world." I'm telling you that I don't know you, but I'm pretty qualified to tell you how you should be spending your time. Stop making me that Subway sandwich, change the world! Drop that bag of dog shit, change the world! It's not that my sensitivities are impenetrable, but I prefer that my bleeding heart remain contained by the walls of my insides. I prefer internal bleeding.

But Obama was being sworn in as the first black president of the United States of America, in a country where only forty years before many black people couldn't vote! And I bought this shirt at an MLK party the night before, because today we live in a world where people actually throw those! And I thought the shirt would be too small but it's smokin'! What better way to celebrate the events of the political moment than to abandon the scorn I have for passionate liberals, to let go of the shame I feel about my desire to hope, and to look fucking smokin'?

I work for a political TV show, so at work, my co-workers and I gathered together and watched the events of the inauguration live. My sympathy was gratuitous. I felt sad for Bush as he walked out between rows of trumpeters to audible boos. Sure, he's done a terrible job, but he's somebody's dad, somebody's husband, loves his family. His dangerous management still stemmed from a desire to do right. I was touched by Obama's fumble at the oath (so maybe it wasn't his fault...) It's probably the heaviness of the world's demand to have you inspire them momentarily catching up with the guy.

And then came the speech. Granted, I really had to pee. And feeling like to have to pee and can't will make a person very edgy. And I WAS touched by the cutaways to a smiling Michelle and the girls. But then came words like "Everywhere we look there is work to be done," and "For as much as government can do and must do, it's ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies." I started feeling uncomfortable, nay pissed. Get off my back, Obama. What are you, my mom? Do you know my hours? I do plenty of the work that needs to be done. And I wore this shirt today. You pick up some slack here, buddy.

It's not as if government hasn't been urging people to ask not what our country can do for us for years now. But at the risk of sounding trite, it's a drag to be challenged to improve, to do better, by someone who you look up to. You feel like you really have to listen. And as Obama spoke it hit me that participating in the tuning up of our very broke down country is going to mean more than buying t-shirts and casting votes and even just being nicer to each other. And I don't even know what it's going to mean! But I bet it's going to be fucking hard! Much harder than jumping into that cold shower and maneuvering a loofa when it's still dark out. More rewarding than having the person you love tell you how good you smell when you're all clean.


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  2. Can I be a blue person and still wear buttons? I love this. You are such an amazing writer, and I can't wait to read what comes next.