Monday, January 19, 2009

Dr. King's Dream is Rising

photo via Doug Mills, NYT

Come on up for the rising,
Come on up, lay your hands in mine;
Come on up for the rising,
Come on up for the rising tonight!

If you're like me, your eyes are still a bit swollen this morning after weeping with joy during the Obama Inaugural event at the Lincoln Memorial. I also watched the replay on HBO last night, exchanging emails with Lisa Simeone, who'd live-reported the event on NPR radio earlier and was now watching it at home, this time setting aside her no-tears-on-the-air professionalism and reveling in the pleasure of it, just like the rest of us. As one stunning performance followed another, I noted that this was so intense an emotion for me, I could barely find words to describe it. "My heart is exploding and bits of stardust are all over the floor," I wrote.

In one sense, I am deeply envious of my friend T, whose children go to school with mine and whose sister is a brilliant actor and very special liberal activist; accordingly, he and his lucky, lucky family are part of the exciting festivities going on in Washington right now; more saliently, they're in the middle of history as it unfolds. (Say hello to Michelle for me, T!)

In another sense, though, as I bask in our relatively tropical Florida warmth (eek, sorry, snowbound readers), I am not at all jealous of those oceans of excited, bundled-up people who were surely chilled to the bone, from the crowds who stood on the ground to the celebrities who sang onstage. I could tell that the performers, in particular, were really feeling the cold, even with layers of gorgeous scarves and coats swaddling them: if you looked at their lips, you could see that some of them were struggling mightily to keep their mouths flexible in that freezing air so they could form the words. (When I was in high school, my singing group traveled to Europe and performed outdoors in Germany; all I can say is, singing in the falling snow is beyond challenging, not to mention terrible for one's vocal cords.)

Poor Bruce Springsteen displayed, at times, the body language of someone who was looking forward to curling up in front of a warm fire after the concert. And speaking of fire, wasn't that a soul-stirring, body-invigorating rendition of The Rising? Springsteen originally wrote this to honor all the firefighters, many of whom died, for their indescribable bravery at the World Trade Center disaster on that dark and heartbreaking day. With an animated, red-robed gospel choir joining in, its 2009 incarnation was, quite literally, a moving and joyful call to service.

And I was touched and amused by the innocent excitement of Malia Obama, who repeatedly pulled out her little digital camera and snapped photos of all those famous people singing and dancing--and remembering history--just a few feet away. Um, Malia, you're the First Firstborn, darling; those celebrities are all going to want photos of you.

Despite my physical distance from it, I felt tightly bound to the history, pride, and ever-renewed American spirit underpinning the stage at the Lincoln Memorial, and I was electrified and inspired by the unprecedented length and breadth and depth of the creative talent assembled thereupon.

So, what was your favorite part?

Also at litbrit.

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