Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inaugural Post

I walked in the streets in DC again this weekend. I’ve done that many times before, but for the first time I walked in them to celebrate for something rather than agitate against something. I spoke with several others in the streets or on the Metro who were sharing the same realization. It’s an interesting sensation, and one I’d like to have again someday.
The whole family went down yesterday to join the millions in the throng for President Obama’s (that was fun to write; I think I’ll do it again: President Obama’s) inauguration. We couldn’t see much, but we could certainly feel the excitement and joy as we celebrated the peaceful transfer of power that marks a great democracy moving more fully into its promise of “all people.”
Oddly enough, I got interviewed again. I’m not sure why this happens, but I’ve been a “person-on-the-street” interview at least four times in D.C. with media outlets ranging from al Jazeera (I kid you not) to the CBS Evening News. Yesterday it was Ebony.
The reporter asked us what the inauguration meant to us and how it made us feel. My nine-year-old daughter, remembering afternoons spent walking the canvas routes with me, said, “excited and proud that I helped to get the first African-American president elected.”
Never having learned the actor’s adage to avoid dogs and children because they will upstage you every time, I dived in, too.
President Obama’s inauguration prompted me to think back to my Southern childhood. I was born in Alabama in 1959, and probably had my diapers changed in Whites Only restrooms – certainly not change you can believe in!
The arc of the moral universe is long, but it does bend toward justice. It has been bent dramatically, by the faithful work of thousands of committed hands, in my lifetime.
The journey toward a more perfect union is endless, but we have travelled – marched, walked, freedom rode – a great distance, and yesterday was a time to celebrate not only the election of a leader with phenomenal gifts and potential, but also that national journey.
Nothing else could explain why 2 million people would brave the cold, the wind, and the inconvenience of being on the Mall. I still don’t know exactly what the president said because the words echoing off the Washington Monument were often muddled and sometimes drowned out by the flags whipping in the wind. But there is no place in the world that I would rather have been.

Prayer for the Obama Years

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…
Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.
Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.
Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.
Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.
Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.
Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.
And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.
Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.
Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.
Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.
Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.
Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.
Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.
And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace. AMEN.
-- Bishop Gene Robinson

Sunday, January 18, 2009

If This Is a Dream, Don't Wake Me

No, that's not a terrorist! It's my middle child, Martin, bundled against the chill this afternoon at the pre-inaugural concert on the Mall -- waiting for that quintessential American, Bono, to perform! Hey, if the Irish can claim "O'bama" then we can claim U2.
We've got a house full for the inauguration and King Day festivities in DC this weekend. As I watched the concert this afternoon (from our "front row" place at the base of the Washington Monument ... no more than, oh, about a mile from the stage at the base of the Lincoln Memorial), I thought of Dr. King's speech in Lincoln's shadow, and his dream of a day when white men and black men, Protestants and Catholics, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveholders would be able to join hands. Our house is hosting this week Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, black and white, gay and straight, North American and Latino, young and not so young, men and women. We don't look quite as diverse as the crowd on the Mall this afternoon, but it's a fine mix of America that has found its way to our living room this week to celebrate King Day and the inauguration of President Obama. I think Dr. King would be smiling.