Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A New Day

I didn't see Walker or anyone from his eighth-grade class in the crowd shots at the inauguration, but he told me they were standing "somewhere in between the Washington monument and the Capitol."

I liked Obama's speech. I didn't like the poem much ("praise song for the day"), and I left to get lunch when the second (second?!) reverend came on, which Eleanor told me was a mistake, because he rhymed and she was amused.

One kind of change I'm hoping for has already been promised--an end to semantic discussions of what "torture" is and the resolution to do less of it. One of the other changes I'd like to see is less prayer. Fewer reverends making everyone bow their heads in public. I'd like to know more people who actively try to find good things they can do, and fewer who need to sit and have it prescribed for them by a church. Yes, I'm still mad about all the homophobia in churches (not my Episcopalian church, I'm glad to say), but the defense of ignorance and hate by some American churches is literally a national disgrace, especially when fanatical church members are allowed to "home school" their children.

What I liked most about the inaugural speech, though, was the way it looked forward. It didn't gloss over the past, but it wasn't mired in it.

Sara Paretsky's Bleeding Kansas, which just came out in paperback, is a story of what happens to a group of neighbors because of the way they're mired in the past, both their personal past and the political past. A big aspect of the personal is the extreme fundamentalist Christian belief of one family, the Schapens, and their unwillingness to leave their neighbors alone, which results in more than one death, culminating with the death of one young man in the war in Iraq.

And because I just watched the movie Cold Comfort Farm again, I'm irresistably drawn to the metaphor of the old woman who excuses all of her controlling behavior by repeatedly crying about how she was the victim of some unspecified act in the past. The joke of that movie is that it doesn't matter what she saw in the woodshed. You'll never know. Get over it.

My hope for the country now is that we can remember the past without getting caught up in the same old arguments. You know, it's kind of like marriage. You can have the same old arguments all the time. Or you can get over it and go on together.

As Jenny Allen says in her essay "Forgive or Forget?" in the February issue of Good Housekeeping:
"If you're always getting mad, you're not the sensitive person or the thoughtful person or the careful person. You're just the person who is yelling "I can't believe you did that" all the time. And that, as I've said, is your problem. Even if it's his problem, it's your problem.
Sometimes you just have to ignore the offensive or selfish or clueless thing.
Or you have to decide it's funny. I'm sorry to sound like Norman Cousins, but almost everything is, sooner or later, and it might as well be sooner.
Can't you ever be irked? Can't you ever be angry? Yes, but you have to get over it.
You have to lighten up.
You have to cut him some slack, and then more slack, and more."

Okay, so at least for the rest of this week, I'm going to try to lighten up. Because more perspective is a good thing. Or it would have been, if the tv crews had taken more long shots of the crowds!


Unknown said...

There was a rhyming preacher? :P I knew I shouldn't have gone to class this afternoon.

bermudaonion said...

What an exciting day for your son - to actually be there.

Jeanne said...

It was exciting. He said the whole trip was either terribly, terribly exciting or utterly horrible, as being in an enormous crowd in an east coast city can be. He arrived home this morning at 8 am, wearing suit pants and dress shoes, looking for all the world like a short easterner who'd been out all night carousing.

lemming said...

(laughter) Love the description of Walker.

The second prayer was far better, and far better suited to the occasion. NPR quoted a woman in Seattle who said that her party had watched the first prayer in stony silence, unhappy with the tone that it set.

Joe said...

especially when fanatical church members are allowed to "home school" their children.

This statement really troubles me - and I have a deep distrust of home schooling.

But I know that it works for some kids, and it gets some kids out of school situations which are even worse.

Case in point - I'll homeschool my son before I'll allow him to be taught by a fundamentalist science teacher who says my religion is heresy and evolution didn't happen.

But what reasonable judge, what Constitutional law, could possibly tell my view from its exact opposite?

Jeanne said...

Joe, No judge, no law. I think "no child gets ahead" oh I mean "left behind" has shown how ineffective that kind of thinking is. I like the option of home schooling, and am against more regulation of it.

But it's not enough to just save your own child from teachers like Freshwater. There are parents from his congregation who are teaching their children religious nonsense like young earth creationism at this very moment. And nobody's ever made a fuss about the middle school science teacher who told my daughter that "believing in evolution or creationism is a choice" and that "whales have more rights than unborn children."

Joe said...

An excellent point. I took a clause out of context; thank you for redirecting my attention.