Sweltering with inauguration fever

obama1It’s almost upon us — four days until President-elect Barack Obama takes the oath of office. By now, everyone is quite aware that inauguration fever is gripping the nation — and, specifically, my area. I’ve lived in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. my entire life. Almost everyone I know has a parent that works downtown, or works downtown themselves. My mother has been a federal government employee since before I was born. On the good days, we’ve been to the monuments, walked on the mall, wandered through the plentiful and awesome museums, checked out the Capitol, partied over at the Newseum. Everyone’s been to shows, seen the National Christmas Tree, stood in front of the White House. I interned in D.C. for a summer in college, working at a daily paper. On the bad days, we lived through 9/11 and wondered if our friends and family were safe following the attack on the Pentagon.

A great many events have taken place in the nation’s capital since I was born in 1985 — and I’ve been there for many of them. I attended Bill Clinton’s first inauguration with my parents in 1993 and, to avoid getting crushed by the masses of folks who turned out for the event, had to be put my father’s shoulders in the crowd. That was a little traumatic! And by the sounds of things going down in the city next week, President Obama’s turn-out will be equally as dramatic and astounding. While estimates on the turn-out Jan. 20 were once as high as three million, I think that number has come down quite a bit. Still, I think Tuesday will be equally momentous for its

Eugene Robinson has a pretty interesting piece in the Washington Post this morning, asking the question on the lips of everyone in the metro area now — Will Washington survive the inauguration? The roads between Virginia and the District are closed. Waits to be able to climb aboard a Metro train on Tuesday are estimated to take about six hours. Road closures will probably exceed the streets we’ll actually be able to take. The idea of even bringing a car downtown is laughable. Hotel rooms are booked up all the way through Charles and Calvert counties in Southern Maryland, and absolutely nothing near the scene is available. Stories about folks renting our their homes in Alexandria and Arlington for thousands of dollars hit the news months ago. Security will be unbelievably strict, I’m sure, and the cold is going to be a little intolerable. Though if you’re crammed in the middle of a writhing mass of other attendees, it’ll probably be a little hot.

In the joyful chaos that erupted following Obama’s election last November, I’d actually harbored delusions of getting down to attend a ceremony or check out the parade. My dad was one of the first to petition our senators for tickets, but we weren’t chosen in the raffle.

So where will I be on Tuesday while history is being made 30 miles from my house? Right in my little office, peering at CNN on my computer screen. I’m going to see if I can get permission to stream the inauguration speech! Or find someone with a TV. Despite all of our economic troubles at the moment, it’s still an awesome and exciting time to be an American. And it’s exciting to be in Maryland, too. Even though I’ll be planted at my desk chair typing furiously, my heart will be down in that crowd Tuesday!

And whether or not our area will “survive” the inauguration next week? That’s a little up in the air, too. Mom has to be back in the city Wednesday morning, as do thousands of other workers. We’ll see if the ticker tape has cleared up by then . . .

Paper ballots and (almost!) decision time

My paper “ballot” came in the mail today — my first glimpse of the presidential candidates, listed in black and white, from which I will choose to be the leader of my country — the leader of the free world. In less than a month. Sitting on my table now to let me get an idea of just what I’ll be looking at come Nov. 4, I’ve already analyzed it to make sure I know just what I’m choosing. For me, there’s very little left to decide.

I haven’t been entirely politically-minded in the past, but this election has been far too important for anyone to ignore. As I’m typing this, the final presidential debate is waging loudly in my living room. Economic meltdown, health care expenditures, dependence on foreign oil (and gas prices!), abortion… yes, tons of complicated issues to discuss. Is there anyone who can honestly say they don’t have an opinion on these issues? Is there anyone left who can say they don’t care?

I’m not one to hop up on a soap box, and I’m certainly not going to pretend like I’m sort of political savant and grandstand on the election. I will say that I sincerely hope everyone out there is taking the chance to really listen to what’s being said by both Senator McCain and Senator Obama and choose the candidate they truly lead this nation — whichever gentleman that may be. Without a doubt, I know who my choice is — but what’s wonderful and terrible and incredible and scary about our big, awe-inspiring country is our ability to think critically, openly and honestly about who we are, why we do what we do and how to make it better. I hope when this is all over, we’ll be making it better. Everything. Better. And I don’t think that’s too idealistic… maybe a little idealism is what we need.