Sunday, January 18, 2009

The bus I'd like to ride on

I had what NPR terms a "driveway moment" today, even though I wasn't in the driveway while listening to this remarkable story about folks who were active in the civil rights movement in the middle of the previous century and are now taking a bus from Birmingham to D.C. for the inauguration. No, I was in the kitchen cooking dinner, completely engrossed by what I was hearing. And it wasn't the onions that made my eyes water.

I've been somewhat disengaged from the Obamastivities (I know, a poorly done Barackification), in part because I'm disappointed that I couldn't make the trip, but this is one story that has set the mood for me. I can only imagine (and now imagine a bit better, thanks to this story) what this inauguration means to veterans of the civil rights movement. An earlier piece on "This American Life" was equally touching--Ira Glass spoke with a man whose lifelong struggle in battling racism and discrimination meant that he had essentially been "working on the Obama campaign for over 70 years."

I welcomed the election of Barack Obama with tremendous joy, relief, astonishment, and reassurance. But the feelings that I hold about this extraordinary occasion cannot possibly plumb the depths of feeling of those who have seen, in their lifetimes, dogs and firehoses being turned on them as they exercised their constitutional rights, segregated public institutions, literacy tests at the polls, and the many other vestiges of racism that have long tainted our nation's democratic traditions.

To better understand the profundity of Tuesday's inauguration from the perspective of someone who grew up in the South, read Dan Popkey's terrific profile of Boise resident and my hero and friend Yvonne McCoy.

I still cling to hope. And there will be much of it as we celebrate Tuesday night at the Linen Building. Please come to this inaugural celebration; find the details here.

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