Watching the show at the Lincoln Memorial yesterday on TV, with Pete Seeger leading the crowd in ALL the verses of THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND (backed by Springsteen et. al.) was overwhelmingly moving. Just the idea that Pete Seeger would be invited to sing at anything officially presidential and public in this country was almost as unimaginable when I was young as the idea of this country electing an African-American president!
But the real wet eyed moment, for me, was when reporters asked young white people at the mall why they were there, and as they responded that they wanted to be witnesses to this historic moment when the first “black president” will be inaugurated, I noticed the black faces around the white interviewees exchange warm and happy smiles that expressed to me a total and willing letting go of lifetimes and centuries of fear and resentment and guardedness bred from the racial history of this country.
There was in those smiles a true sense of “free at last”—not from the bonds of racial discrimination, which will continue to exist around the world, not just here, and from all kinds of so-called “races” towards all kinds of others (though I believe it is truly and finally only among a small minority)—but free from the bonds of suspicion and inherent judgment of “whites” by “blacks” for being incapable of understanding and accepting African-Americans as full and complete fellow citizens and fellow humans.
That may seem overstated, but I believe I truly saw it in those faces at the mall yesterday, and maybe that’s because they were the enthusiastic ones who have come to believe that the election and inauguration of Barak Obama is a true change, but even so, even if it’s not everyone, I believe it is enough of us—“black” and “white”—to prove to at least ourselves and each other that we can accept each other as we are and get on with dealing with our mutual problems as one country at last.
And, I believe, that is the direct result of one man’s faith that we could, because he has.
I hope the elements in this country and around the world—including some in our government, especially those on the far right—who would like to see him, and us, fail, are kept off guard and on the defensive long enough for him and his administration to make this a lasting change and not just a once in a lifetime anomaly.