Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Musings on a Snowy Inaugural Eve

Ah, 2009, how the time has flown already. (Joke about how you've all been dying in anticipation of my next blog entry goes here - all two and some-obscure-fraction of you regularly reading this - but I've already run those jokes into the ground.) I've had a bit of a rough go of it this year so far. Mostly in that after having been daunted by a mild illness in mid-December, something far more persistent struck me around the holiday itself, and as such, I ended up sick for a good 3-4ish weeks. Lovely times, as you can imagine, but I'm in better shape now and figured it was about time I sat down and mumbled out a first entry of 2009.

I haven't written any absurdist commentary pieces in quite some time, so maybe I'll manage to find some more good material and blog that sort of thing more often this year after burning out last spring. In general, it'd be nice to write in this thing more, but I've been keeping myself occupied with novel work (Down to the last few chapters and revisions as I am) and my UMass Amherst application. (The last of which finally went out in the mail over a week ago now.)

And now, on the morning of January 20th, it's actually snowing here in North Carolina. Local schools have already been canceled for the day, and somewhere between 1:30 and 2:30 AM, the rain we'd had all evening and into the night turned into minuscule tufts of snow, gently gliding down from the clouds above to stick and blanket the ground. Last I looked around 3 AM, we seemed to have close to an inch already, and three to six inches have been predicted. We haven't seen snow like this that's actually stuck - and potentially has a shot at sticking around for a few days - in years. And as always, the snow makes me a giddy like a child, having spent the earlier half of my childhood enjoying the heavier yearly snowfall in Cincinnati. We had some decent snowfalls in my early years in North Carolina, but in the near-fifteen years I've now lived here, we've seen little to nothing in the way of wintry precipitation. As far as I'm concerned, North Carolina winters generally don't cut the mustard. Hence my focus on moving New England-ward for grad school and in life in general. To someplace with four distinct seasons to enjoy, as opposed to staying in this part of the country where summer still threatens to devour the rest of the seasons.

There's something beautiful and poetic to the view of snowfall by a streetlight on a dark January night. Something about the image in general has captivated me for my entire life, and it's become a key recurring visual image in my first novel - the still-codenamed Project 27 Days - and with my prose, I hope to convey vividly the feeling and image of watching the falling snow on a chilly winter's night. Both the harshness and coziness to be found in the image and season. Taking in this inspiring view outside the windows, I can't help but feel energized, and hopeful, even.

And not just hopeful in the sense of literary inspiration, either, of course. After all, after making his trip by train from Hopesylvania the other day, in less than twelve hours, Barack Obama will be inaugurated. Last night, The Daily Show and George W. Bush said their goodbyes to the Bush years with faux-sentimental and hilarious looks back, while they lamented how much harder it'll probably be to come up with material on the level the Bush administration, considering that they could've been a comedy routine unto themselves if not for all the terrible things they did, allowed to happen, and failed to properly react to during their time in power. Tom Tomorrow's "Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out" sentiment towards the Bush administration departure in a recent This Modern World comic says it well. In less than twelve hours, we'll have new president. We'll be seeing the end of the era of rule by one of the worst administrations this country's ever seen, and while we've inherited many difficult ordeals to struggle through, we'll finally have a new start. Though the election was closer than it really should have been, we'll have a new president, a new administration, and a stronger majority of a different party in Congress. We'll likely continue the cherished American tradition of four to eight years of cleaning up conservative messes before they trick the American people into electing a new set of their leaders and wrecking things again, but at least our nation's bipolar cycle is finally heading back into an upswing.

With plans to close Guantanamo Bay, put an end to torture again, and announced intentions to put an end to the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy banning homosexuals from serving openly, as well as a largely strong and interesting cabinet, Obama's given us much to be hopeful about. We face turbulent times in dealing with an enduring economic crisis in part due to poor decisions made by the previous administration (Though there are many factors involved here), and an even more unstable Middle East as a result of an Israeli-Hamas conflict that should've been resolved sooner and far less violently. (And even now, all they're doing is taking a breather in a one-week ceasefire which one hopes could lead to a longer-lasting agreement so that their war doesn't simply resume at the end of the month. There's no excusing the sheer volume of Gazan civilian casualties, for which both Israel and Hamas hold responsibility. Working towards an enduring peace agreement and getting a two-state Middle Eastern peace process back on track is a task not even Spider-Man may be able to help.

Today is going to be a good day. A day of hope, a day of remarkable American history. We allowed a buffoon to steal the 2000 election and show that any mediocre American with the right political connections can become president. We made the mistake of allowing ourselves to be frightened into reelecting him in 2004 and quickly realized the mistake we'd made as his approval ratings plummeted. In 2008, we made history by demonstrating at last that we've come far enough that you don't have to be white to become president anymore. And as we saw during the election - between candidates both empowering (Hillary Clinton) and not so empowering (Sarah Palin) - women are starting to be taken much more seriously on the American political stage as well. Today is a day to celebrate progress, today is a day to celebrate a new beginning. Today is a day not to be ashamed of America, for today, we show the world that we're not as backward as we'd appeared with Bush in power. We're capable of more - capable of better.

I'm looking forward to going out in the snow this afternoon, walking through it, taking in the cold air, making snowballs, watching my dog roll around in and plow through it. That's another simple pleasure in life - watching a happy dog play in the snow.

It's been a rough start to 2009 for me, but today's going to be a good day.