My friends want me to write a funny book. They read my blog posts and they read my e-mails, and they write back and ask When are you going to write a funny book?
Well, chances are slim that I'll write a purely funny book. Different forms bring out different strengths for most writers. For example, I find it impossible to write a decent short story. That is a talent and an art unto itself, and I accepted that it was not my strong point many years ago. No, I write long, as we say, and when I do it tends to be about serious subjects, even if there is humor sprinkled throughout.
But when I do write short, as in blog posts or e-mails, I tend to go funny. If it's less than 2,000 words, smart-ass forces its way into it unless it's purely instructional, and even then I try to inject a little levity.
But once in a while there is an event or period of time that I feel so moved by that I get all serious, and this past week has been one of those times.
My first brush with politics in any significant way was in sixth grade, Evanston, Illinois. We held a mock presidential election, and I, along with most of my classmates voted for John Anderson. I don't really remember exactly why we all felt strongly about Anderson, but then I don't remember why we felt so strongly about Izod, either. When he lost I was stunned. I didn't understand the process, or the way people thought about politics, or...anything, really. What do you want from me? I was in sixth grade. This is why we don't let sixth graders vote.
Anyway, I registered when I turned eighteen, and I always voted. Some of my picks won, most didn't, but I never got emotionally involved. I thought that emotions had no place in politics, that it should be all about the facts.
But then Obama came along, and I got emotional. And it felt like a whole new world opened up for me. And I understood that the political system can work best when we are emotional. Because when you're emotional about something you become motivated to make it happen. There has been a lot of talk about patriotism in the last several years. And what is patriotism but a strong emotional feeling for your country, its place in the world, and its people? Otherwise, patriotism is nothing but a dry agreement that this is the logical place for you to live.
But now we've got what we asked for. And soon the grinding day to day business of politics will resume, and mistakes will be made, and there will be some things that might not turn out exactly the way we all hoped. And I hope that when that happens we don't allow our disappointment to disillusion us. Because then we lose the emotion that allowed this amazing thing to happen to begin with, and when we lose that emotion, we lose our motivation.
Here's the thing, we made this happen, and now it is our responsibility to maintain the momentum. We have to continue to stay motivated, because we've all acknowledged that there is much work to be done. Obama didn't get elected by himself. And he can't fix our problems by himself. We created a team when we went to the polls, and now we have to continue to be that team.
I have many friends who went to Washington D.C. for the inauguration and reading their blog posts and e-mails nearly made me feel as though I were there myself. Thank goodness for talented writer friends! I had a book club appearance on inauguration day, so I didn't get to see much of the festivities televised during the day, but as soon as I arrived home I watched, and, again, nearly felt as though I was right there with the crowds, feeling the great surge of goodwill and, yes, I'm going to say it, hope fill me.
I am not ashamed to admit that I cried.
One of my friends, Cantor Robert Lieberman of Syracuse, New York, also went to the inauguration, and I'd like to pass along something he wrote for that extraordinary day. Again, this is something different for a blog post of mine. Many of you know, either from knowing a little about me or from reading Matters of Faith, that I have my issues with religion, my questions about faith. But this blessing, for want of a better word, is what I feel, too, along with millions of other people.
After reading it I realized that the reason I felt as though I was at the inauguration myself when I read about it, or watched pieces of it, is because in many ways I was there. All who want a better world were there. All who believe that science and religion can coexist were there. All who know there is a bigger world filled with worthy people who want and need our help were there. All who reject the idea that America is above reproach were there. And all who believe that despite that, it is still the greatest nation in the world to live and raise our children were there.
I was there, and no matter your politics, I'd be willing to bet that a piece of you was there too. Because we all want the same things, don't we? We want to be safe, we want to be happy, we want to feel as though we are contributing something to this world. We are all now a part of the team, and being emotional about it is exactly as it should be, and the week of the election and the week of the inauguration aren't the only times we should feel that hope fill us.
So, from Cantor Robert Lieberman:
An Inaugural Prayer
January 7, 2009
Our God and God of our ancestors,
to whom all children and parents are precious,
help us break the chains of indignity,
support the suffering, free the pained.
Calm our fears and heal our wounds
in the aftermath of jobs lost, homes foreclosed and unrelenting violence.
Bless all the leaders of our great nation
with compassion, wisdom and insight.
Engage them to listen to us;
Empower them to repair what's broken;
Enable them to change directions;
Emblaze them with the passion to perform.
Bless the volunteers who seek to give and not receive.
Bless the voters whose voices were heard.
Bless dissenters with moments of clarity.
Bless every citizen of our country
and our friends throughout the world
with the healing power of Your presence,
the healing power of Your spirit.
Each of us stands before You
teary-eyed, yet transformed by these awesome proceedings.
It will take more than just hope; we need to believe, we need to respond, we must act.
We need Your loving Presence now,
in our lives, in our hearts, in every clean breath.
As we remember our fellow Americans:
parents, children, spouses,
employers and employees
upon whose shoulders we stand,
bless us with determination, strength and willpower,
so that we may again focus our lives
on the hallmarks of our national identity:
God, may Your Patience, Love, and Mercy
bless our President and every American neighbor
so that our homes are secure,
our lives are safe,
and our children hugged
with Your Protective Embrace.
Cantor Robert Lieberman
© January 7, 2009