On Your Mark

January 20, 2009 - 10:12am -- swingbug

My morning began like the beginning of any other week. On your mark, get set, go. Work may be stopped in Washington on this auspicious day in history but around here the kid still needs to be fed and the household still needs to be run.

Yesterday was mostly a holiday, despite a business meeting in the morning and a rehearsal in the evening. We had a barbeque in the middle to celebrate Martin Luther King day and there was still some cleaning to be done in the aftermath. Plus, for all intents and purposes, it’s Monday around here, which means it’s laundry day (see you there) and time to change sheets and litter boxes.

I put off my business calls for an hour though, and at 9:00 switched over from streaming my favorite science program to the radio so I could listen to the inauguration. Whatever radio station our receiver was already set to was broadcasting the event – not surprising – which saved me the fuss and bother of breaking into the baby-gated fortress that is our stereo system to scan the stations. I returned to the kitchen where Luke was in the highchair and the dishes were in the sink.

The commentator was making some odd remarks given the seriousness of the event, to the point of proffering comment during and over the new president’s inaugural address. This, I felt, was out of line. President Obama will be exposed to scrutiny from every voice in the country from around the water cooler to the pages of the New York Times. And that’s as it should be, I think; we’re supposed to watch and judge our leaders. That’s our part of the job. Still, it does seem like the man should be able to get the words completely out of his mouth before we start dissecting them, and on his first day on the job, I was far more interested in hearing what our new president had to say than what this radio guy had to say about him.

It wasn’t long before I realized to whose broadcast I was listening. Shawn had been listening to the playoffs yesterday and it seems that the station that happens to have good football coverage is also the station where Rush Limbaugh makes his home. To be honest, aside from out-of-context clips on other news broadcasts, I’d never listened to anything the man had to say. Still, I recognized the voice and personality readily enough.

That he felt the need to give out snide remark during the president’s speech vexed me enough, but when he did the same over Elizabeth Alexander’s poem I was infuriated. A politician puts their convictions out to the public for debate and censure. This is their job, their business. A poet bares her soul to her listeners and readers. It’s not a job. These words are not speeches. It’s putting your heart in someone’s hands and saying, “Here. This is what I am. This is what I have to offer.” It’s intimate. You don’t have to get it. You don’t have to like it. And I’m not saying to don’t have a right to critique it, but out of respect for that intimation, you damn well better hold your tongue until she’s done.

How ironic to speak over a poem on the very natural of words. The other half of speaking is listening. Noise and bramble, indeed.

As an aside, if there is such a person among my humble readership that listens to Rush Limbaugh on purpose, please leave a comment and explain to me some redeeming value to his program. If you have an example episode that provides some insight as to why so many people choose to listen to this man, please let me know. I will listen to it, on my honor, just so that I might try to understand why this show exists.

Despite the occasional but jarring interruption, Ms. Alexander’s poem about the average American spoke to me, as I stood in my kitchen with a dish towel tied around my waist. I wondered how many other women were listening to this inauguration in kitchens across the country, and how many had listened to previous inaugurations standing where I’m standing in life. And I knew that I’d be able to download that poem in a few hours time to peruse on my own in my favorite chair with a cup of tea and a quiet moment, just as I could download the president’s speech, uninterrupted. God bless the internet.

I thought it was a good speech, as speeches go. Ultimately though, we did not hire this man just to speak. We hired him to lead us through change. This is his first day on the job, but tomorrow will be harder than today.

According to my desktop dictionary widget, the word “inauguration” means to begin or introduce, to mark the beginning or first public use of. Mr. President, you have your work cut out for you. On your mark...

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