Inauguration Plans: Witness History, Away from the City
In a little less than two weeks, eleventy million jillion people are going to descend on Washington, DC to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama as president, our first African-American president. It is an important event in our history, and I want my children to witness it and feel a part of all the excitement, to be able to tell their grandchildren how amazing it was. And they will - but not from in the city.
Road and bridges are going to be closed. People are being encouraged to take Metro, and car traffic will be limited. Businesses and offices have been closed. People are renting out their properties for exorbitant amounts of money to those who want to be here. The shear numbers of people expected to attend are astounding, and far outweigh just about every other event in history. Frankly, I have to wonder why.
I don't wonder why the event is important, that's obvious, but I wonder why so many people feel like they need to be there.
Visibility will be severely limited. The ability to hear will be limited. There's only so many portajohns that can be trucked in. If businesses are closed and a limited amount of street vendors will be permitted, then how are people going to keep themselves fed and watered? What about the trash? The event is going to cost a staggering amount of money, money that in these times of economic crisis could better be used for other things. In picturing the point of view of my kids, it will be a sea of legs and backs trying to see that little speck up there saying something they can't hear, out here in the cold where it's impossible to get a snack or to the potty. That doesn't even consider what would happen in the event of an emergency in which a speedy exit would be necessary.
I grew up here in the suburbs, and my parents hated going into the city for anything, so it wasn't until college that I attended the fourth of July fireworks on the National Mall. The fireworks were lovely, but they didn't make up for the difficulties in getting there, the pushing and shoving of people standing on the Capitol steps by those who were shortsighted enough to stand in front of a tree and not realize it would block their visibility, and the expense. In that moment I understood why my only trips to the city had been when I had a school field trip.
Now, I love the city, and I frequently take my kids downtown to experience all the culture and adventure that it has to offer. We've been to high-attendance events and have enjoyed them immensely, and we've gone to visit at off-traffic times when it seemed like we were the only ones there. It's a wonderful place. I can't imagine living anywhere else on earth. Here in the suburbs we have the benefit of being close enough to the city to enjoy it, but far enough away that we escape much of the pitfalls of living in a city.
For Inauguration Day, we will witness history in the making, and my kids will be able to see and hear our 44th president take his oath of office from the comfort of our home, watching every detail on TV. We'll save our attendence downtown for a day when it will be needed to make a point, when our voices will need to be heard; for right now, our voices were heard back in November, and watching the result on TV is good enough for us.