On a personal note, on Saturday night, my brother Mark and I walked our little sister down the aisle. For nearly nine years, I had anticipated that exact moment, knowing, after my father had died, my brother and I would likely have to perform his role whenever she got married. And I had feared that our presence would underscore his absence, that it would somehow be bittersweet and awkward.
When a member of a young family suddenly dies (and dies at a young age), it can take several years before you don’t sense their absence during every birthday party, every graduation ceremony, every family reunion, every Thanksgiving, and every Christmas. For nearly a year after my father died, when my family went out to eat, we’d sometimes instinctively ask the hostess for a table for five, before remembering that now there were only four of us.
Over time, of course, we have adjusted to our new math. After all, in any and every family in the world, numbers inevitably change.
I’ve always admired the tradition of jazz funerals– an audacious, engaging celebration, a purposeful juxtaposition. I wish we had such a tradition in Alexandria.
On Saturday night, my family had to adjust its math once again, but it wasn’t bittersweet or awkward. It was jazz.
Thank you to my father’s friends (who are also friends of this blog), many of whom (Kevin, Ron, Chip, Bill, Joe, Greg, and Lee) traveled hundreds of miles just to be there. I know you weren’t there just to cheer on my sister and her husband, you were also there to celebrate for my father. Thank you, thank you.
Tomorrow, we will all celebrate the Inauguration of Barack Obama. If you recall, Mr. Obama first rose to prominence after his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. He spoke about a united America, an America that does not view itself as a collection of disparate groups but as an amalgamation, a country that embraces diversity as necessity.
I steadfastly supported Mr. Obama’s candidacy because I believed in his vision and appreciated his perspective. But from the moment he takes the Oath of Office, he must be able to turn his rhetoric into reality. It will not be easy. There will always be a contigency of people who earn their living by constantly criticizing him, regardless. And he will inherit an incredible burden.
But if Mr. Obama is to enact the change he seeks, then he must understand that America cannot be united nationally if we are not united locally. For far too many, it is much easier to selfishly and simplistically divide a community (through political theater) than it is to actually work on creating solutions for ensuring equity and fairness (through daily, active work). Newspapers prefer theatrics over substance. Theatrics may be a good strategy for a campaign, but once the campaign ends, the real work begins.
Mr. Obama once said, “We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics. They will only grow louder and more dissonant.”
It is my earnest hope, for the sake of this country, that he, once again, proves those cynics wrong. But to do so, he must get to work, and he must stand up to those who seek to divide us along racial or religious lines in order to profit off of those divisions. Again, for them, government is never serious work, and politics is just theater, not a serious profession.
That said, I look forward to an historic moment in American political theater when Barack Hussein Obama officially becomes the 44th President of the United States.