So C calls to say, "Did you check your email," and I hadn't for a few hours, because I was driving through the slush-canyoned streets of Chicago, having dug the car out of yet another sarcophagus of snow, because it has snowed every single day that I've been back, but I stopped into a coffeeshop to check my email, and in the message he was flagging I saw photos of what looked like what we, and many others we know, have been dreaming about: an invitation to the inauguration!
I immediately called him back and as we were speaking, my mind was racing. Congressman Sires or someone had come through at the last minute, despite not answering any of my entreaties, and so I would have to reschedule my classes that Tuesday, figure out how to get to Washington and return for departmental necessities, figure out where we might stay, get my one of my suits altered and cleaned....
But when I returned to the apartment, I looked more carefully at the photos. As C had noted, it clearly stated that it was a "commemorative" invitation. An invitation to attend "public" events, just like anyone else who might happen to be in DC or near one of the trains or buses heading north from Virginia or south from Baltimore that day. There was an accompanying page suggesting that we participate in a "local community" service activity on Martin Luther King Jr. day, just as the President-Elect and VP-Elect would be doing, in Washington, which of course wouldn't be "local" for us. Then there was another note announcing that the inaugural balls would be brought to us, so we need not worry about attending them. Not Oprah's, not the Hollywood Stars', not the Military shindig, not the gig for the People, nada. In addition, as C told me, there were also offers to buy commemorative tchotchkes and so forth, perhaps of a slightly more legitimate provenance than those coins my grandmother spotted on TV and was eager to spend her precious dollars on.
In effect, like C's sister and 1 million other people across the country, we had received the Invitation to Nowhere and Nothing.
It is a pretty souvenir, certainly, and although, I really would have loved to hear Elizabeth Alexander deliver the inaugural poem and Aretha Franklin style her musical selection, thrill to the playing of Yo-Yo Ma and the praying of Joseph Lowery, witness Barack Obama and Joe Biden sworn in live, and listen the poetry that I'm sure will issue from our new president's lips (and hum as Rick Warren poured forth his invocation)--live, right there, not hundreds of thousands of miles away, alas, it won't be so. I will be watching, probably via this or another computer, as the events unfold in Washington, just like many hundreds of millions of other people in this country, like millions across the globe. And to think, if only I'd met that most recent midnight deadline for whatever amount of cash Obama and Biden and Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton and whoever else were asking for that I don't have, I might have been one of the countless but elated hordes who entered the lottery, as happened on and before election day, at the Grant Park Rally, and nevertheless still not been selected to attend. Been there, done that. Of course in reality there'd be no way I could have gotten to Washington and back in time, and then there are all sorts of other logistical issues involved in pulling off what one of my colleagues will be pulling off, which is attending this landmark historical event that will go down in the annals of history for all time, or at least for the time that human beings remain on this earth and we still have what passes for human civilization. While I'm sure my wonderful students would have understood my rescheduling classes for such an important event, I bet they'll be even happier not to have to worry about the hassle or miss my presence in the classroom. And who's to say that the weather would even have cooperated with me leaving this beautiful, artic center of political corruption and drama on the appointed date?
You're bringing the inaugural balls to us, you say, President Obama and Vice President Biden? I will remember, yes I will.
Tobin Harshaw blogs an engaging, aggregating post in today's New York Times on "Oakland's Tragedy, and Black America's," or more specifically, the cold-blooded killing, captured on video, by White Oakland cop Johannes Mehserle of a prone, unarmed, detained 22-year Black man, Oscar Grant III, on a BART platform, a story I linked to on Thursday. Harshaw blogs about online exchanges involving social critics like conservative Stanley Crouch and progressive Ta-Nehisi Coates, criminal justice scholar James Alan Fox and economist Steven Levitt, and local Oakland bloggers, that explore and contest the statistics on Black-on-Black crime, especially among young Black men, the responses to it among Black communities versus crimes like this one involving a White cop, and who really suffers when riots like the recent one against police violence occur.
One of the things I wrote to a friend just the other day was along these lines: police continue to kill Black folks, but far too many Black folks are still killing Black folks, especially young Black men killing young Black men. It's an unmitigated tragedy, and we have to work to end not only the former, but at the latter as well.
Are the Arizona Cardinals really on the verge of winning two consecutive playoff games? Are they really about to win another one after having won their first home playoff game in 61 years last week, meaning that they hadn't won since they were in Windy City, Chicago (that is, skipping over all the years in the Mound City, St. Louis, when they drove innumerable football Cardinals fans nearly to heart attacks with their inimitable collapses when playoff time came around), all those years ago? If they do win, which appears likely, let me congratulate them, and especially my former 7th grade classmate, Mike Bidwill, who I gather is really running the team these days. You've successfully rejuvenated the career of Kurt Warner. You've made your investment in Edgerrin James pay off. You might even have managed to galvanize your fan base and pay for that glittering new stadium in the desert. The possibility of your getting to the Super Bowl, however, is unlikely, and winning it unlikelier still, but stranger things have happened.