Not my pageant, not my president

John Lewis won’t be there. Jennifer Holliday will not sing after all. This year, I won’t “be there” either. It is not my pageant.

The pageantry of the inauguration of American presidents has come into sharp focus this year as entertainers weigh whether or not to perform; and, we are beginning to hear from government officials about their consideration of whether or not to attend.

Why do we have such an elaborate pageantry of speakers, pray-ers, poets and performers? Tradition. The US Constitution calls only for an oath prior to beginning presidential duties. Who is present is neither defined nor required.

We the people are not witnessing a coronation of a king to whom we must bow in obedience as to a god. Quite the opposite, we witness a person vowing to serve the nation and protect our nation as defined in the Constitution. That document describes the service our elected officials are to fulfill on our behalf. We witness the promise of the incoming president to serve us and our interests according to constitutional law.

I will pray for the president-elect. But I will not watch.

I do not harbor any illusions that he has our interests at heart, nor that his oath will be kept. Neither do I believe that he knows what the Constitution requires of him. I do not believe he has considered beyond his own bank account what the power of the Presidency means and requires. He has never acted on behalf of others or sacrificed for the good of someone else. His rhetoric and behavior has demonstrated that we the people are his playthings.

As an American citizen, I evidently pay more taxes than he does, am obligated to ethical standards regarding conflict of interest though he prefers to be above ethics. My citizenship is worth less to him than his celebration of an enemy of the American vision and government. As a worker, I am at his disposal and may not be paid if contracted by him.  As a family member to military personnel, their sacrifices have been dishonored by his trashing of a Gold Star family because of their constitutionally protected free speech opposing his election.As a woman, I am meaningless to him unless I meet his grade and receive his shameful advances.  As a queer woman in a same-sex marriage, his nominees are a threat to my life and livelihood. The list goes on.

In a week, he may legally, though illegitimately, become the US President.

But until he earns it, he is not my president.

 

 

 

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Here I am

Time passes. Grief changes. A lot has happened and been said since November 8 and the election. Many opinions, reflections, news items – both fake and factual – have been penned and pondered. I have occasionally reposted or “liked” someone else’s comments.

But I have struggled to articulate a nuanced understanding of my own about the election of a man who has celebrated his sexual assault of women, encouraged Americans to fight publically when police are striving mightily to become partners in their communities; behaved as a child on a playground about a disabled man, pitted white against black, brown, red and yellow, and completely obliterated the meaning of freedom of religion.

I struggled to understand my uncharacteristic stillness. Until President Obama’s farewell speech from Chicago…

I paused the speech before it began. I had to record it and save it for later. Because of the pain and sorrow that caught in my throat and ran down my cheeks as I began to say goodbye.

I finally realized the depth of my grief. Not just a disappointment at my candidate’s loss. Not just anger like a petty, sore loser. Not just embarrassment that people I thought I knew … yet too painful to articulate even now….

I realized as the President took the stage that something I held dear had died.

And suddenly I thought of the generation who watched in horror and silence as President Kennedy was taken away from us. That day, for that generation, their hope died and people remember details about that moment, that day, that week and tell those stories to this day. This was my Kennedy.

As President Obama entered, I understood that my country died on November 8. The hope and change and dream and “yes, we can,” America I knew was dead. And I have been with an unspeakable grief. The USA I thought I lived in was not just vanquished, but perhaps had always been non-existent.

The arc of the moral universe broke. The wings of freedom fell from the sky in a garbage heap of hopeless feathers. The light of the promise that all Americans may pursue life, liberty and happiness, went out.

America was dead.

…   …   … then the President spoke.

Then….I cried and began to say goodbye.

And as I let go, opened my hand and unclenched the tight grasp of what I thought might still be salvageable, my tears bathed me in truth. Truth always brings new light.

…………………………..“You are not alone.” said Lawrence O’Donnell speaking  about a new poll.

For that knowledge, I am grateful. For as I come about, and the trauma of this present darkness lifts, I will need you—

You– who believe that death will never have the last word.

You who believe we can be stronger in the broken places when we attend and heal them.

You who believe that we have a moral obligation to one another as human beings to be good neighbors in spite of the ways we may disagree.

You who believe we are to be good stewards of this gift called Earth.

I need you—

who believe,

who act for justice, love mercy and walk in humility.

What will be the United States of America is yet to be known. But it is already rising in the hands of those around us. And I don’t intend to watch from the sidelines of a garbage heap. Nor will I leave it to those who killed the founders’ dream.

May the darkness become kindling for new firelight of freedom,

The feathers sharpen into quills to pen the language of a new hope and vision,

That arc, an arrow pointing the way, lining a path, and bridging the divide.

To you who had to grieve publically so as to hold space until others began awakening, I am sorry I’ve taken so long. Thank you for listening in the night, catching fears, collecting tears, opening doors, cracking windows, calling out, whispering names, until I heard and at last say, “Here I am, send me.”

Deo Valenti,

Beverly