Wednesday, January 21, 2009

This Unity

Still on the road, still working long hours, still no art...

But I have had a few minutes in the evenings for commenting.

And we did pause for lunch yesterday where there was a big TV so our whole team of people could see and hear the oath taking and the speech. We didn't hear the speech well, just bits and pieces over the lunch crowd, but it was moving enough.

Today I took the paper with me to a solitary, quiet dinner (one crowd gone with three days of meetings over - another smaller crowd tomorrow - but peace in between) - and I walked from the hotel to a Frontera Mex-Mex Grill next door. I'm in GA - Lisa's and MathMan's current state, though I'm in a more metro area. Keep that in mind, and if you've read much of Lisa's and MathMan's blogs, some of the rest of this post may sound familiar.

All the staff in the restaurant were Latino. They sang with the music (in Spanish, of course) and called and joked with each other. Like so many Latino's I've met, they were quick to smile, looked me right in the eye, and were affectionate and open. I love this result of the cultures that raised the people I met tonight. So I was not surprised when my wait person, a good looking, sunny young man with a ready grin, on hearing it was my first time in a Frontera, made an animated recommendation of a particular meal. I have a long standing view that God is acting through little pointers like this, and even if my meal choice is a relatively trivial thing, I have learned to follow the lead. The Tacos Alambra were, indeed, extremely good, especially when I squeezed the lime all over them. Wow.

Before my order came, though, I opened the paper to the Obama parade and the Obama address. I was planning to read the address in full. My wait person was back with my water, and he asked me what I thought of Obama being President. It was asked openly, with genuine interest in my reply - but it was the first guarded face I had seen in the restaurant. I said I was excited, and relieved, and I was elated that we had elected an African American, because it was about time. He lit up. He said that so many of the people he had asked were not happy about it. I recalled where I was - GA. I thought about most of the clientelle of this restaurant, even here in the more urban Metro Atlanta area. I thought of several posts of Lisa's and MathMan's, about encounters at their jobs. All in a moment. Then he was asking me why I was excited. So I waxed eloquent about the Obamas, and the hope for repairing the American image abroad, and our unity. I think I got a little ahead of his English a few times, but I didn't tone it down for him at all. He drank it in. There was a warmth of exchange, and lots of use of the word, "friend" the rest of the evening when he came by to check on me, which he did often.

Until I began reading the address. He left me uninterrupted for that - I think he could see what I was reading, or perhaps my posture spoke to him, because I was very focused and lost in the words.

I still can't believe we actually managed to elect this man. I know his road will be tough, and I know that his compromises and positions on things will be complex, and not popular with people on either the extreme left or on the extreme right. But I deeply believe this man will do the right things, and we will all be better for it. Because of our position in the world, the whole planet will be better for it. And I think we will follow him. We can all learn from his example - such as his breaking with tradition and walking the Bushes to their helicopter. Another gesture for unity, for moving beyond divides.

I had a rush of fear and joy and admiration when I saw the photos of the Obamas out walking on the parade route. I hope we are always deserving of such trust and selfless courage. I pray God will protect these people and keep them safe and whole, and that we will, in increasing numbers, have the good sense to listen and get behind his ideas and his leadership.

I am excited about this presidency because the things I love most about people - like the warmth and openness of the young man who recommended my dinner, his courage to keep asking people for their thoughts - will prosper far more in this atmosphere than in any other I can recall. There is a gentle and decent human being in the Whitehouse - a strong, principled, thoughtful and brilliant couple, very much in love with each other and with their girls - and that will spill over into politics, policy, and posture, everywhere.


linda said...

steve, what a beautiful and inspiring post and you stuck my post in there too..that too, speaks of the gentle man you are as it is a picture of two people in love...I love that picture and will put it into my sidebar if it will have it!

I loved your description of the Latino man waiting on you in the restaurant and his obvious elation over Obama being elected and his also obvious, fear in your reaction to his question...isn't that sad that still, after everything we have seen and experienced and then yesterday with all it's wondrous moments, such as the warmth shown to the out-going bush's, as you mention, there are still those people who will not like this man - primarily for the color of his skin...I will assume that is more of a prevalent attitude in GA than in other parts of the country and I'm sure Mathman and Lisa will understand my saying that...

I hope soon you get to be home again, off the road and have time to make art...take care, be safe.

Genie Sea said...

Love in the White House.
Love on the streets.
Love can be gentle.
Love can be sweet.
Sometimes this love
must take the heat.
The heat of decision
unpopular to some.
This kind of love
warm like the sun.
Spills into court rooms
War rooms and tents
Changes the future
Replaces the past.
That kind of love
will surely last.

Yes your post inspired poetry in me. :)

DebD said...

I thought it was an excellent speech and brilliantly executed. I know this is rather silly, but it will be nice to have someone who knows HOW to give a speech in the White House.

Or, perhaps its just me hearkening back to my old Charismatic roots.

Alex said...

I'm disappointed that you didn't get to watch the whole thing. There were several moments when we were watching that I spotted something I thought you'd appreciate.

The picture of Mr. Obama and President Bush emerging from the White House on their way to the swearing-in ceremony... Mr Obama sporting a brilliantly red tie and President Bush's tie glowing bright blue... will stay fresh in my mind for months.

My best moment was completely personal. It came when my daughter recognized Itzhak Perlman as someone from her favorite movie (Fantasia 2000) and connected to the proceedings in a very real way. From then on, she sat up a little straighter and paid a little bit closer attention.

Anonymous said...

Another beautiful and inspiring post!

tammy vitale said...

Yes! and Yes! and Yes! again. And oh don't you just love the "very much in love with each other" part?! I'd say the best of all, but the best of all is that we were at long last smart enough to take our chance at this amazing person as our leader. Yes!

Odd Chick said...

I think you are so right and it seems this man continually makes integrity and honor and dignity and love his decision first. I'm almost afraid to get attached to him and his family - it all seems so fragile.

Lisa said...

What a great post to read as I sit in my office, a bit bored and at loose ends. I've got the Friday afternoon ants in my pants. Not quite the work week, not quite the weekend.

You were in Georgia so you could see through that young man's eyes what I see - a negativity about a new direction. It astounds me, though it shouldn't after all this time. When I heard Rush Limbaugh openly admit that he hopes President Obama fails, I was not as shocked as I should have been. He as making a broadcast statement of something I hear every day.

Thankfully, not all my conservative friends are so petty. They understand that if President Obama and our new Congress succeed in leading us out of these tough times. we all succeed. I suppose it would follow that Limbaugh, a person who firmly believes in the "we're all in this alone" philosophy would have neither the sense of community or humanity to want something better for all of us.

Whoops. I'm sorry about that rant.

I found the Inauguration speech to be very inspiring in its groundedness and its call for all of us to be prepared to work toward a better future.

And now, I am hungry for Frontera tacos.

giggles said...

oh,happy day......glad you found more people with whom to share your enthusiasm.... the more, the merrier!

susan said...

You see the best in people and that's a wonderful thing.

EWian said...

Making art while travelling is hard, if you are not extremely disciplined. Congrats with new president.


Distributorcap said...

so well stated - if we can have a few years of civility.....

Jul said...

I am more excited about our new president than I ever thought I'd be about a politician. I even threw a party for the inauguration! The expat community couldn't be happier these days. :)

Pagan Sphinx said...

I say this with childish simplicity:
I have never been able to understand hatred and fear due of others people. And even animals are feared through misunderstanding.

I think the Obamas are in a unique position to act by example. This country so badly needs it.

linda said...

ummm steve, did you give up blogging?

just wondering...I'm missing your wonderful posts, with or without the art ;)

Steve Emery said...

I'm grateful for all these comments - and I read them over the last few days - but I'm too worn out to reply individually. Since this post I've been buried. I think this evening I reached my hand up through the topsoil and waved my hand around in the air a little. The rest of me will emerge soon, I hope. I knew in November that January would be very hard for me.