By now you’ve either heard or read every possible perspective on what occurred in my fair city of Washington, DC over the past several days. I’m sure you’ve enjoyed the tears, cheers, speeches, marches and balls supplemented by 7×24 coverage, countdowns, videos, pictures, satellite images and punditry. If you’re thinking, “Enough already!”, you’re not alone. I too walk among those ready to get past the pomp and onto the circumstance.
So despite my better judgement and while clearly labeling this post in the category of ‘overkill’, I offer you the following observations. And with so much already written on the wonderful nature of the day (and it was wonderful), I thought I’d go counterculture and offer two very negative views of January 20th, 2009.
Negative #1 – Groaning
My wife and I are a fairly tall, agile and jovial couple who know how to handle ourselves in a crowd. But as you’ve likely experienced, not all crowds are rational organisms who follow the rules and behave like adults.
Thus was the case as we spent ninety minutes pushing, shoving and cajoling our way toward our ticketed viewing area on Inauguration morning. Shortly after clearing security, ~1,000 of us found ourselves sardine packed against a double-fenced gate. Ironically, a Border Patrol Agent was controlling access to our ticketed area while flat-out refusing to acknowledge the clearly open space we were entitled to occupy. One crazed woman in our huddled mass kept screaming about her press credentials and yelling for us to let her pass, saying, “Do *YOU* have $2,500 worth of camera equipment?” At one point she literally tried to crawl between our tightly pressed legs to get to the fence. In return she received a forehead full of tightly clenched butt-cheeks as things got ugly and people started yelling. I finally used my best booming voice to get the agent’s attention and we were let inside after about 45 minutes of largely inappropriate touching. (Note, however, that this was the last time I was warm that day.)
Sure, this was uncomfortable and frustrating, but the real groaning began as the JumboTron showed various dignitaries arriving for the ceremony. This crowd was simply hostile at points. And by hostile, I mean angry, bitter, spitting mad. The chants of “Na na na naah, hey hey hey, goodbye!” when President Bush was announced were mob-like and relatively kind in comparison to some of things people yelled. I know we are all frustrated and I’m not exactly a fan, but I did feel sorry for him and was a bit saddened and embarrassed by the whole raucous display. It’s like heckling the fired boss on his way out (you know, if the boss coerced your company into a war).
Negative #2 – Garbage
Have you ever been to a National Park and heard the motto, “Leave only footprints, take only memories”? Well imagine that instead of footprints you left over 130 tons of trash. Then imagine that instead of memories you took down an entire wireless grid, destroyed barricades, trampled all living things and completely decimated 6.7 million square feet. Welcome to the post-Inauguration apocalypse.
As we worked our way through the maze of frozen Obamites, a swirling brown dust cloud seemed to encapsulate the bottom half of the Washington Monument. The wind whipped as we drew closer, tumbleweeds of hand-warmer packaging, t-shirts and discarded signs rolling about the barren plain that once was our National Mall.
It was everywhere and it was disgusting.
You know when you’re invited to a party at some guy’s house who’s that friend of a friend? And when you arrive, you might accidentally break something, spill your beer on the carpet, not use a coaster and raid the liquor cabinet? That seems to have been the mentality of our city’s guests, the only difference being that as a taxpayer you actually are a partial owner of the house and need to pay about 1,000 maids to help clean it up. It was the ultimate party foul.
It was great having all those visitors to DC, but on your way out please let me know where you live so I can drop a ton of crap on your front lawn.
Mmm… smell that? It’s the sweet smell of victory. If only the Washington Monument were a giant scented candle…
So pick up your trash, stop your groaning, enjoy the newly elected president and let’s keep the conversation going.