Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Inauguration 2021

I woke up this morning like Anna in Frozen, "It's Inauguration Day!"

I've always considered Inauguration Day to be a sacred day.  It's a day to celebrate our country and our democracy through the ultimate pillar of that democracy- with a peaceful transfer of power.  It's a day to celebrate a government by the people.

This past few weeks, I've thought a lot about our American democracy and what it really means.  The definition according to Oxford Languages is: Democracy- a system of government by the whole population of all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.  Simply, it's a government chosen by the people.

I've always considered the ability to chose a president a revered right despite the fact that I'm not into politics and I don't follow it regularly.  In my 36 years, I've only voted for a few presidents but I've remembered each time.  Although I was of age to vote in the 2004 election, I didn't as I was away at college and I had problems with my mail-in ballot and our college mail sorting system.  The 2008 election of Barack Obama was the first presidential election cycle that I really followed and paid attention to.

During Obama's presidential race, I was living alone in Marlborough, MA in a one bedroom apartment.  I had graduated from Wentworth in August and I was struggling to find a job in an economy that was crumbling.  I was having a hard time, and Barack Obama's promise of hope resonated with me.  It was the first time I was passionate about politics.  I wasn't watching every debate and aspect of the presidential race, but I watched enough to know that I wanted to vote for Obama.  I changed my Facebook profile picture to the "Gryffindors for Obama" photo one of my Harry Potter groups shared online.  Come Election Day, I felt so empowered to vote for Barack Obama at the polls and to pick the next leader of our country. 

That night, I cooked myself a special meal of my version of Longhorn's Rocky Top Chicken while I tucked in on my futon to watch the presidential race results.  It was the first time that I'd even bothered watching the results live.  I was empowered with the right to vote and I was invested in the results.  As the results trickled in, and states turned red or blue, I dove into the Election Day cupcakes that I'd made- chocolate frosting on chocolate complete with red, white and blue sprinkles.  I celebrated that I'd voted for my first presidential candidate- and that he'd won the 2008 election.

I don't remember watching Barack Obama's Inauguration.  By the time he was being sworn in, I was working at my new real estate job and busy taking classes.  However, I do remember watching Bill Clinton's Inauguration.  I was young and I don't remember much of the ceremony.  But I recall that I sat in the gym of my elementary school in front of a crowded television (on one of those rolling carts) while we were at lunch.  I remember that the event was important enough that our teachers had live television on... something that I've only ever experienced that day and on September 11th.

However, four years ago, I was home when I watched as Obama left office and the current, now outgoing, administration took over.  I remember crying as Barack Obama got into the helicopter and flew away from Washington D.C.  Like many, I wasn't happy with the election results, but I was still respectful.  I watched the entire ceremony.  I even watched the parade to the White House afterwards.  I was respectful and I was proud that Americans have the right to choose our leader through our democracy.  I respected the peaceful transfer of power to the person who was elected.

I think it's important to hold a respect for our democracy and the peaceful transfer of power.  Many countries across the world do not have that right.  In many places across the world, they have no say in their government and leadership- while here in America we get to vote for all of our elected officials at the national, state and local levels.

I've also always held a great respect and reverence of our nation's capital city of Washington D.C.  There's a demure elegance to how the city and it's landmarks are laid out along the National Mall.  The buildings, monuments, memorials, and museums all have dignity and a simplistic sophistication to them.  When I think of our national monuments, I think of neutral colored stones that instead of exuding grandeur and luxury hold a place of nobility, resilience, strength and splendor.

I've always been fascinated with the architecture of these magnificent buildings.  In fact, my first impressions of these buildings are probably part of the reason I've always been interested in architecture and eventually went to college for interior design.

My parents took Jeremy and me to Washington D.C. when we were kids.  It was during our annual family vacation after tax season had ended and during our school's April vacation week.  The year was 1999 and Bill Clinton was our president.  I remember the cherry trees blossoming and the National Mall was absolutely beautiful with everything in bloom.  My parents took us to visit most of the monuments and memorials while we walked the National Mall from the Washington Memorial to the Lincoln Memorial.

There were also somber moments during our trip.  We were actually there when the shooting at Columbine happened.  We were outside of the White House when Bill Clinton and his motorcade rode by on his way to a local highschool in Alexandria, Virginia to speak with students after it happened.  I also remember visiting Arlington National Cemetery.  The sheer number of gravestones is something that I will never forget.  We visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as well as the eternal flame memorial for President John F. Kennedy.  I left my first trip to Washington D.C. with a great respect and reverence of our country, our history, our leaders, and our capital.

I went to our capital again in 2006 while in college when I was selected as one of two female students from Wentworth to attend a national women's conference.  My friend Heidi and I were flown down to Washington D.C. where we stayed at the American University campus for our conference.  There were female college students from all over the country there.  It was a wonderful event where I learned so much.  It was also so empowering to be acknowledged as a top female leader.

While at our conference, Heidi and I made new friends- some of which I'm still friends with on Facebook.  We walked around on the National Mall one night to see a few of the monuments with stops at the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the Whitehouse.  It was also the first time that I saw the World War II Memorial.

I haven't been back to Washington D.C. since that trip in 2006.  Eliot and I have always talked about going back to visit someday.  (He went to our nation's capital while he was in high school.)  I'd love to spend more time there to really see all of the sights.  I've still never seen all of the monuments on the National Mall.  I also want to see all of the monuments, memorials, and buildings after having earned my degree in interior design.  I'm sure I'll have a renewed sense of wonder seeing them again after all these years.  I'd also love to make time to go the Smithsonian.  I believe my parents took Jeremy and me there, but all I remember was running around one building trying to find Dorothy's ruby red slippers from The Wizard of Oz.

It's been hard for me to see Washington D.C. in lockdown right now.  It breaks my heart to see where we are right now.  It feels like the entire country is sitting on edge, wondering if the events that unfolded on January 6th are the end of the violence, or if there will be more.  I'm glad that our capital is safe and secure, but I worry about other parts of the city.  I worry about all of the states and their capitals.  I worry about the anger and the unrest that I can still feel boiling over in much of the country.

This presidential election cycle has certainly been a doozy.  I'm so glad that as of this afternoon, it's officially done.  In a few hours, Joe Biden will be president of the United States of America and we can move forward.  I've found it hard to be an American the past few months.  At some points over the past few years, I've felt intense shame.  

I don't think it's a surprise to anyone who I voted for.  I believe in equality and justice for all... not just those of us who are white.  I believe in affordable healthcare options.  I support members of the LGBTQIA+ community.  I believe in climate change and in protecting our world for future generations.  I believe everyone should get a quality education.  I also believe in working hard to get where you are, but I acknowledge that not everyone was given the same opportunities as I was.

I also want to make it clear that I'm a very proud registered Independent.  I've never signed up to be part of either political party... something that my parents taught me and I've always agreed with.  In fact, I've voted for both Democrats and Republicans through the years.  I've always voted for the person who I thought would do the job best.  This presidential election, the choice was simple for me.  I would have voted for a few of the other Democratic candidates who had a platform that I admired, but in the end, the choice was clear.  And, politics aside, I could never vote for someone who disrespects women, military members, disabled persons and minorities.  Above all, I've always believed in love over hate, and I've had a very hard time seeing how fear and hatred have become part of a presidential campaign.

During every presidential election cycle, it feels like the country divides down the middle into political parties.  However, I've never felt the split so much as I have this cycle.  This time, it feels deeply personal.  There's an intense divide.  Social media has been unbearable for most of the past year.  People are downright mean attacking others in the comments sections.  It's absolutely horrific and appalling how people will so quickly turn on each other.  In fact, I recently realized that I lost a friend over it.  

I've stayed away from political posts because I know I have friends and family that are deeply invested on both sides of the spectrum.  Anyone who really knows me already knows how I feel and who I voted for.  I don't believe me making political posts is going to change anyone's mind.  It would only open my post and page up to debates.  

However, on November 7th, when the 2020 election results were finally called, I did make a post.  While some of my friends were literally popping champagne bottles, I simply posted a simple message of two blue heart emojis with an American Flag emoji in the middle.  The emotion I attached to the post was "feeling relieved"... because I truly was.  Along with it, I included a photo of the Hall of Presidents at the Magic Kingdom with Sam Eagle sticking out of a window waving an American flag above the sign.  That's the post that cost me a friend when she claimed the election "wasn't really over" and when I simply replied that I believed Joe Biden would be our next president when the dust finally settled.  It's unfortunate that's how it ended.  She's since blocked me (and Eliot) from Facebook and all of the posts I've had from her over the years have vanished as if they were never there to begin with.  And that's really sad.

Now is not the time to be arguing with our family and friends.  This is why I've always hated politics.  I've never seen it as something that brings us together; it feels like it only drives us apart.  At the end of the day, aren't we all Americans who want the best for our country and our citizens?  No matter who our leader is, shouldn't we hope and pray that they do the best job that they can?  It's in all of our best interests... right?

One thing is for certain, it's been a rough few weeks, and I, like many, have been afraid of where our country is going.  But regardless of that fear, now is the time to move forward and to come together.  Barack Obama once said that, "The American story has never been about things coming easy.  It has been about rising to the moment when the moment is hard.  About rejecting panicked division for purposeful unity.  About seeing a mountaintop from the deepest valley.  That is why we remember that some of the most famous words ever spoken by an American came from a president who took office in a time of turmoil: 'The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.'"

We have a lot of work to do here in America.  We aren't perfect and we have many things that we need to fix about our society.  We need to rise together to make the world and this country a better place, regardless of how hard and difficult the road ahead of us seems to be.  We need to start making decisions based on hope, kindness, empathy and love, and not based on fear.  I hope we can begin to do the hard work to make all Americans equal and to have justice for all. 

Thus, we find ourselves on another Inauguration Day.  The day Joe Biden becomes the 46th president of the United States of America.  This Inauguration Day begins a new chapter of hope.  I feel like today is a reset.  As you know, I love the turn of the calendar each year.  It's always another chance to make positive changes.  Today kind of feels like that.  It's another new beginning.  I hope the Biden administration is up to the task and I wish our new president well in his daunting tasks to unite the country and tackle the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.  Now is the time we should all support him in these tasks- regardless what side of the aisle you sit on.

Above all, I wish Americans will move forward from today with kindness.  "Where there is kindness, there is goodness.  And where there is goodness, there is magic."  °o°

No comments:

Post a Comment