I just finished watching the inauguration of our 44th president — Barack Obama — and I am more moved than I have ever been related to a political event. The man seems such a great man to me — strong, full of integrity, determined, realistic, and humble. He seems to be the man who could turn this country around and once again make it what it was intended to be: a place of freedom, justice, hope, and prosperity for all its citizens.
It’s at times like these when I feel fully the indoctrination of my youth and an underlying sense of patriotism that, I think, is uniquely American. People in other countries don’t seem to feel this way about their country. Theirs is more a sense of unity by family, by tradition, by customs and ancestral roots. Ours is a unity of ideology, and perhaps idealism.
I thought I had lost all interest and pride in what it means to be a citizen of the United States, yet I watched the inauguration with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. I, who eschew nationalism, because I think it’s a destructive force, feel pride in this moment to be a part of this country. A year ago, I felt only despair when I thought about the state of the world, it’s wars, and our involvement and influence over everything; now hope resurrects itself in my heart.
I’m surprised by all of this. I haven’t felt proud of being an American since the Vietnam War, since I was thirteen or fourteen. Yet here am I, in my living room, watching the American flag wave in a Washington wind, thousands of miles away, compelled to stand and put my hand over my heart.
It’s a tentative hope that trembles within my chest. I hope I will not once again be disappointed. I’m aware that everything won’t go my way. If that were to happen, all men everywhere would lay down their weapons and put their arms around one another. All those weapons would be destroyed, transformed into something of constructive value, and used to help others. If I were to have my way, we would all look each other in the eyes, see our common source, and love one another in the best ways we know how. But, I’m fairly sure that won’t happen — at least not in my lifetime.
I recognize that politics, with its inherent requirements of compromise and conciliation, takes its toll on every altruistic person who thinks to serve our country. Most don’t survive with their integrity intact. But this time, I have hope. And that hope has given birth to possibility, confidence, and new dreams.
When I listen to Obama speak, when I see the look in his eyes, and when I watch his wife and children, I feel, for the first time in my life, that I am listening to a politician speaking his personal truth. I believe him. And, also for the first time, that truth is closely aligned with my own ideals – those of peace and prosperity, care for the earth and for each other, a sense that the community is greater than the person, and that when we work for the collective good, we benefit the individuals within that collective.
I hope that one day in the future, I will look back on this day, and I will smile, because I will be able to see a history of change, a history of growing world consciousness, and a history of peace.