Many of us wake up this morning loathe to watch, much less celebrate the transition of power from a man who speaks to our better nature to one who seems to delight in drawing out our worst. That is not just metaphor. I am dismayed at the anger, distrust, and bewilderment I feel within my own self at the stunning contrast before us, and I struggle to find ways to mitigate my fear.
One way to do so is to acknowledge those better qualities demonstrated and exemplified in the White House these past eight years, and to say thank you in every way I can. I’m not talking about the politics or about the accomplishments and failures during Obama’s tenure, I’m talking about the burden this man bore on our behalf and the grace with which he did it. I’m talking about the example he set for love, grace, humor, and tolerance, about the hate and insults he absorbed without breaking, about the worry he carried through the night on our behalf.
On a friend’s FaceBook post today I read a dialog that scared me – one person criticized the behavior of our new president, another warned that all such talk would soon be met with an assassin’s bullet sanctioned by today’s swearing in. I’m not naïve enough to believe that this inherent anger, distrust and violence has risen whole from one man’s ignominious campaign. We are all to blame. But I am frightened by the implications for ourselves and for our country. Is this who we are to become? Yesterday, Ann Pachett wrote, "Love was not something I would have previously thought to look for in a president, but now I’m wondering how I’ll do without it."
Love. Love for country, love for justice, love for family, love for arts and education, love for peace, dialog, and reason. These are the qualities exemplified by our outgoing president, his wife and daughters, the qualities that make our country great and bring out the best in each and every one of us, no matter who we are or how we feel about the politics that got us here.
This morning I will watch this beautiful family leave the White House with the same grace with which they’ve occupied it and then I will turn the TV off. I will take a walk and – as a new president is sworn in – I will make a plan for how I can become a better, more active citizen and a more gracious human being and I will write a letter to tell Barack Hussein Obama of my gratitude for his being who he is.