Even More Impressed with Amanda Gorman

Even more of a triumph, knowing this…

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Amanda Gorman is the 22-year-old National Youth Poet Laureate who recited this amazing poem at Biden’s inauguration. The minute she opened her mouth, I was mesmerized. The words, the syntax, and the way she was moving her hands, it all seemed like a well-choreographed, artistic dance of mind, body, and spirit. That’s something you don’t normally see in one so young. That, and more superficially, I adored her coat and hat, and she’s absolutely beautiful.

From less than 6 minutes on stage, she has become America’s Sweetheart, and rightly so. She gives me hope for the future of this nation. We need more poets. (And isn’t it refreshing to have a leader who allows others to shine in his presence?)

The only criticism I’ve come across is that some folks think the poem should have rhymed. What are we? Three years old? Poems do NOT have to rhyme. I actually prefer the ones that don’t.

But what I just learned, from this article, is that Ms. Gorman has speech and auditory processing disorders, most likely from having been born prematurely. She struggles to pronounce and hear certain sounds. She has particular trouble with the letter R and SH. She was entirely incapable of pronouncing Rs until two or three short years ago. She actually took up poetry to help herself overcome these issues.

Now that you know that about her, listen to her recitation again. Knowing what you now know, it’s even more remarkable that she was able to do it so perfectly and while exuding so much self-confidence. I’m sure she is a role model to many. I am so impressed.

National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman reads her work, “An American Lyric,” at the inaugural reading of Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, September 13, 2017. Photo by Shawn Miller.

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Different, and yet…

There’s still much to do.

So, it’s the day after inauguration. If, like me, you feel as though you’ve just taken off a pair of shoes that were lined with ground glass, or, alternatively, it feels to you like this is the end of the world, here’s the thing: nothing has changed in our day to day lives, has it?

The sun rose this morning. It will set this evening. We will set about our daily routines (such as they are, in the midst of a pandemic). The people who loved you the day before yesterday will most likely still love you today. And if anyone now hates you, well, screw ‘em. They’re idiots.

Yes, gigantic changes are afoot in the overall scheme of things. Hopefully they’re not too little, too late. But here on the ground, where we are already working or not working, struggling or not struggling, dreaming or feeling hopeless… well… yeah. More of the same.

Because here’s the thing: as much as we’d like to think so, politics really has very little to do with you or me. It’s an elite power struggle, an ongoing battle to possess all of the marbles in the playground, players be damned. It was ever thus.

The air, to me, feels lighter, and I have a tiny bit of hope that I didn’t have with the last administration, and I didn’t realize I had been living with a gnawing pit of anxiety in my stomach until it went away. I’m also enjoying an end to the hateful tweets that can turn the world upside down on a daily basis. But the same obstructionists are still blocking the path forward for the average person. And those very obstructionists will also block any attempted reform to the system, because they like things just the way they are.

So, yeah, it’s a new dawn. But we have one of those every day. I’m trying not to get my hopes up. We still have much to do. But on a personal level, it sure felt cleansing to wave goodbye to the orange, tiny-handed shitgibbon and hear speeches, songs, and poetry of hope and a desire for unity, rather than rants peppered with hate, division, and paranoia.

Onward. Here’s a pretty picture.

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My Pussy Hat

Ever since the Women’s March on Washington the day after the pussy-grabber’s inauguration, pink “pussy hats” have sort of become a thing. It’s a woman’s way of saying, “Yep. I have one. You have a problem with that?” Seeing that sea of pink hats on the Mall, the largest protest in the history of the world, made me really proud. So naturally, I had to get a hat of my own.

The problem is, I don’t knit or crochet well. So I bought one off Etsy. The woman who made mine says she has several small children at home, and therefore she can’t easily get out to protests, so she’s glad to do her part this way. Good for her. (Of course, she’s also profiting off of the movement. But still, I choose to believe it still counts.)

I was really excited when my hat arrived in the mail. And now I wear it every chance I get. I’m really surprised that you don’t see more women wearing them when they’re not attending rallies. That kind of makes me sad. It’s a statement.

Just the other day I was walking into a grocery store, proudly behatted, and a woman gave me a high five. I also get lots of compliments on it. It always makes me smile to interact with a fellow traveler.

I’m equally surprised at how many people I come across who have no idea of the significance of the hat. I mean, have you been living under a rock? Even if you don’t share my political views, I can’t imagine how you can be so out of the loop in the modern world.

I wonder what it would be like to wear this hat daily if I still lived in Jacksonville, Florida rather than Seattle, Washington. I guarantee you I wouldn’t be getting many compliments or high fives. I’d be jeered at by my old coworkers, who for the most part seem to have been covered in amber around 1950. I’d probably have things pelted at me from passing pickup trucks. Same country, different world.

I hope that some day, long after I’m gone, my grand-nephews will see a picture of me and say, “Mom, why is Aunt Barb wearing that funny hat?” And I hope my niece will reply, “Because Aunt Barb was an amazing, outspoken woman with very strong convictions. I hope your daughters grow up to be just like her.”

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I Just Can’t

For the first time in my life, I will not be watching an American Presidential Inauguration. I’ve always watched them, even when the incoming president wasn’t the person I voted for. I watched them even when I wasn’t old enough to vote. It has always amazed me that this country, since its very founding, has managed a peaceful transfer of power. Every time. That’s pretty freakin’ impressive.

But this one is different. Not only is Trump entering the office with the lowest approval rating and the lowest percentage of American votes in history, but he is the most disrespectful, hate-filled, emotionally unhinged and destructive person ever to hold this office. And I’m terrified.

Part of me thinks I should bear witness. This is history, after all. But the other part of me feels like I need to preserve my sanity and gather my strength for the many battles that lie ahead.

I have to say that I haven’t felt this sick to my stomach since I saw the bodies falling out of the towers on 9/11. And just like back then, I feel utterly helpless and I can’t help but think that the world will never be the same.

So just for today I will avoid the internet and the radio. I’ll take a complete media break. I’ll lift my tear-streaked face up again on Saturday.

Be gentle with yourself, dear readers. Don’t forget to breathe. Live to fight another day.

56th Armed Forces Inaugural Committee

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“He’s Not MY President!”

It’s Inauguration Day here in the United States, and even though I worked graveyard shift last night, which means the ceremonies felt like they were being held at the equivalent of my three o’clock in the morning, I watched them. And I got an amazing thrill from the event. Not just because my guy won. (Yay!)

I can say with all sincerity that I’ve gotten goose bumps from every single inauguration I’ve witnessed, regardless of whether the man who was being sworn in as president was the person I voted for. As I looked out at the hundreds of thousands of people who were willing to attend this event (despite the fact that it’s always held in an often brutally cold Washington DC January), I realized that they are bearing witness to history, and one in which we can all, on this day if not on any other, take pride.

During every inauguration, I’m reminded of the words of George Washington during the First Inaugural Address in 1789: “The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered deeply, perhaps as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”

And it’s true. This nation, this political process of ours, is an experiment. My saying that once got me blasted by one of my relatives. He thought what I was saying was unpatriotic. How dare I say this is an experiment? Well, I say it easily and with pride, thank you very much, because anyone with even the slightest knowledge of world history knows that governments rise and fall and political philosophies come and go. Just ask the people of ancient Rome. The fact that we are lucky enough to be at a point in time when our particular experiment seems to be working quite well is a reason for celebration. And saying it’s an experiment is the most patriotic thing in the world because it reminds us that this stability is fragile, and it needs to be monitored and cared for and debated about with the free speech afforded us by our constitution. What could possibly be more patriotic than that?

Indeed, my love of free speech was sorely tested a few days ago. A very heated political debate broke out on a friend’s Facebook page. I sat back and watched it with interest and enjoyment, at first. Then, as often happens when people don’t have a strong dog in a fight, it deteriorated into name calling and personal attacks. That made me sad, because rather than strengthening their views in my eyes, it simply made me think much less of both parties. So I was thrilled today when President Obama said, “We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.” You tell ‘em, Barack. We don’t have to agree. But if you let it deteriorate into insults, you’re only revealing your ignorance, because, you see, this is not about him. It’s about us.

U.S. Presidential Inauguration 2013

That Facebook brawl ended abruptly when one person said, “He’s not my president!” Poor deluded woman. If you’re an American, yes he is. Even if you didn’t vote for him, even if you didn’t bother to vote at all, yes he is. And you should thank your lucky stars that he is. We have held a stable government without a violent overthrow since George Washington made that first inaugural address in 1789. Yes, we’ve had a civil war. Yes, there have been assassinations and assassination attempts and threats from other nations, but through it all, we have remained solid. Millions of people on this planet have not experienced that stability, and can’t even imagine what it must be like. So, yes, he’s your president, love him or hate him, and that fact was celebrated today on a cold, windy patch of ground in our nation’s capital. How cool is that?