Debbie Downer Does DC
I have never been able to stand the Debbie Downer type. This probably stems from being raised by one.
But I find the Obama Buzzkillers to be the most infuriating of all.
I am in D.C. I have seen things this week that will stay with me for a lifetime. Elderly African-Americans weeping with joy, and when I stopped to ask them why, telling me stories of being raised in the Deep South, knowing people who were lynched, remembering the Klan being around, being afraid to make eye contact with white people.
Young inter-racial couples, clearly already color-blind, but revelling in the notion that now perhaps much of their country was too.
Old hippies, wistfully recalling Robert F. Kennedy and how, after his assassination, they gave up believing they’d ever see another politician who would inspire them with messages of peace and hope, who would proudly herald in a new era of political idealism.
Vietnam War vets vehemently opposed to the war in Iraq and sickened that the U.S. had apparently learned no lessons from their own terrible conflict.
Old church ladies who used to vote Republican but were so sickened by the Bush/Cheney years that they switched allegiances. Originally Hillary Clinton supporters, they were carrying Secretary of State Clinton signs and were delighted to watch Obama take his oath.
I have been in tears quite a few times this week, hearing stories that made me feel small in terms of the adversities I’ve had to confront in my life by comparison, and yet also unbelievably enriched.
I don’t care where you are on the political spectrum — I have voted Liberal, Conservative and NDP in my country (that’s basically, for you Yanks, Democrat, Republican and Socialist Lite). My feelings of joy this week haven’t had much to do with politics — they’ve had to do with having my faith in humanity restored. I saw so many acts of kindness to strangers this week, everyone just coming together, all colors, ages and nationalities, to celebrate a moment in history.
Crowd control wasn’t ideal. People often waited in line for hours to get onto the Mall, only to be turned away in the end. But no one got angry. One crowd control worker, in fact, apologized to a huge group of people for having to turn them away, and she was assured it was OK. “We know it’s not your fault, thanks anyway,” one woman shouted her way. “YOU’RE WEL-COME!” the guard replied joyously, tossing her head back, throwing up her arms and singing the words with exuberance and joy.
And yet you hear and see them. Questioning what all the hype is about. Quarreling with the notion that Obama’s win is significant. Predicting he’s going to be a total failure, a major disappointment. Insisting that he’s not really a black man (this one might drive me craziest of all). Asserting that post-racialism is just bullshit, nothing will change. Saying that his inaugural address sucked. Blogging from D.C., pulsing with life and emotion and joy and two million stories, but only posting pictures of yourself in ball gowns and making Derek Zoolander faces. These are the Debbie Downers who just floor and stun me with their soullessness, their blind cynicism or their bitterness.
For just a moment, can all of us come together like those millions in D.C. and recognize this moment for what it is in a country with a history of slavery and segregation? Are we so beaten down by the events of the past decade that we don’t trust joy? If so, I propose we shake off our default pessimism for a week or two, and revel in a beautiful moment in time. Hopefully there will be many more to come, but if not, at least we had this.