I've often thought that I might have caught religion if I'd gotten to attend a so-called "black church" in my formative years instead of only visiting stale, conservative Catholic churches for various events in my extended family. Listening to this speech live was as close as I think I'll ever get, with the kinetic energy in the audience, the facial and bodily reactions of those around me, the frequent spoken responses throughout, and certain of Obama's tones in the speech itself. That sense of community, of taking part in a dialogue of both words and energy rather than sitting on my couch listening to someone talk at me from my TV, absolutely enhanced the experience in every way.
But more notably, I immediately noticed that feeling of widespread admiration for a president that I haven't known since I was 10 years old.** People who don't completely agree with this man can still admire him without feeling guilty about it, I think. I won't go on about my extremely negative feelings towards Presidents Clinton and Bush (Jr.) for their habits, attitudes, and personal character, since they're beside the point of this post.
We took to the streets with glee, since this time almost everyone was on the move at the same time. The poor unlicensed t-shirt vendors hawking homemade wares from cardboard boxes could barely keep up with demand for their predictable products. I can understand the desire for a keepsake from such an event, but a t-shirt, and a poorly-made one at that, isn't necessarily my first choice.
J- decided she wanted one particular shirt, though, and I could console myself with the price versus other commemorative shirts she has chosen to buy, or have bought for her (ahem). All the shirts I saw were much more competitively priced than the typical unlicensed shirts offered at concerts and other events, which pleased me, but the one J- liked so much happened to be only $5, which pleased me even more.
Of course, I later pointed out to her that the likely reason it was so cheap was that while yes, the front has an interesting and imaginative design, the back says "I WAS THERE WHEN HISTORY HAPPEN AT GRANT PARK - NOV, 4TH 2008".
I cannot adequately express how much staring at the back of this otherwise nicely-designed shirt makes me twitch with a craving for unfocused violence.
But that would make me the only one, it seems, because after seeing this, I couldn't help but notice that about 15% of the ecstatic crowd marching home alongside me was wearing the same lowest-bid shirt without a hint of the shame I felt for them.
The Chicago Police reported not a single arrest at the rally,*** which is of course incredible given the attendance and the circumstances of the event, so I'm guessing either all the city's other copy editors stayed home that night or they simply aren't quite as prone to violence as I am.
* Whatever your current opinion of our President-elect, his first speech in that role is as important as it always is, and given the tenuous state of our economy, government, and society combined with Obama's youth and the fundamental change he claims to represent, this speech, as an introduction to the coming inaugural address, was monumental one way or another.
** Granted, I was right in the middle of a distinctly unscientific sample, but I'll note that I did see several small indicators that there was a healthy number of McCain supporters there for the experience as much as everyone else. It's not like everyone can easily jet out to Arizona in the middle of the work week, and given that, why not be there?
*** I'll state for the record that I did see a young man being handcuffed while face down in the street, for reasons unclear, but that was several blocks away from the rally, and for all I know he was later released without being officially arrested.
Could it be a PR move for the sake of winning the 2016 Olympics? Or could they have just been helpfully demonstrating for this fellow what they would have done had he been unruly or disrespectful.