So, over the past few months I have been asked a few times if I will be going to the inauguration. Sadly, the answer is no. This is currently upsetting me. So I'll review the history.
For the first three inaugurations where I had been old enough to vote... 1993, 1997 and 2001 I made the trip to DC and stood in the cold to watch the swearing in and inaugural address on the big jumbo trons along with many thousands of other people, all shivering in the cold. Despite the crowds and bad weather, it was wonderful to be there as a personal witness to history. The peaceful transition of power. The democratic process at its best. I had not voted for either Clinton or Bush. In all three of those elections, I had voted for third parties, not being able to stomach either of the of the major candidates. But I could still appreciate the history being made, and what it represented as the triumph of the process.
My intention at that point was to be sure to attend every inauguration for the rest of my life, or as long as I could manage it. But that ended a lot sooner than I would have liked.
In 2005 the inauguration was mere weeks after we had closed on buying our new house in Florida. We'd expended most available savings on that transaction, and the remaining bits were being used to complete our move and to otherwise take care of getting set up in the new house. In previous cycles I'd lived within easy driving distance of DC. This time I would have to spring for a plane flight. I could probably have done so, it just was not really a responsible use of money at the time. Also, in each of the previous inaugurations I'd gone with a group of people. This time, prior to the election I had looked in vain for someone willing to say they would join me NO MATTER WHO WON THE ELECTION. Everybody was incredibly polarized. They would go if their candidate won, but not if the other guy won. And one person who might have gone with me was just a month from having a baby, so that wasn't going to work either. If I'd been able to find anybody to go, I might have said screw the financials, I'll go anyway. But I found no such person. So in the end, quite bitter about it, I did not go in 2005, and watched it on TV instead.
So now fast forward to this election cycle.
Well before the election, back in July, I got my first question from someone asking if I would be going. Still bitter over 2005, I replied this way:
Hmmm. I actually doubt it. You see, I missed last time. The whole thing for me was the completeness of it. That I could say that I had gone to EVERY inauguration since I was old enough to vote. I wanted to keep that going for as long as I could. It turned out it was only 3 inaugurations worth.Well, the election actually happened, Obama won, and then a few days later someone else asked if I would be coming for the inauguration, offering me a place to stay if I did. This time I said:
I was devastated last time. First nobody else was willing (most people) or able to go really, or people were conditional (I'll go if Kerry wins, but not if W wins mostly). And second the inauguration was just weeks after I purchased a house and after all the major expenses of moving, etc. We were quite tapped out at that moment. I would have gone alone regardless, but at that time it would have been financially irresponsible for me to have done it. I sat home and watched it on TV, and was just very sad. I wanted to be there, but was not there. And for me, that ended the whole inauguration thing.
Even if I lived across the street from the Capital Mall, at this point I'd probably leave town on inauguration day, because being there would just remind me of my failure. I wouldn't enjoy it, because all I'd think about would be the "hole" and the gap in my experience. That I'd have seen only 4 out of 5 inaugurations since I was old enough to vote, and not all 5. And that even if I went to every inauguration from now until I was elderly, that hole can never be erased. And that fact would gnaw away at me, and I'd end the day just bitter and upset.
Do I know the above is irrational and stupid? Yes. But I also know myself and know that is how I'd feel. I tried to do the inauguration thing. As of 2004 I failed. That is now over for me. Once I missed one, there just wasn't any point any more.
And yes, I know I could still potentially say "I've been to the first inauguration of every president since I was old enough to vote." But so far I'm just not feeling that one.
I say that knowing that an Obama inauguration, if it were to happen, is likely to be a huge event with a level of excitement and historical impact not seen in generations and it would be a shame to not be present for it if I could be.
So maybe ask me again in November. :-)
But right now I'm thinking probably not.
I doubt I will be coming to the inauguration. As you know, for many years I had been very committed to ensuring I attended EVERY inauguration since I was old enough to vote. Unfortunately, and I get depressed thinking about it to this day, in 2005 I was unable to make it to Bush's second inaugural, primarily for financial reasons. It was extremely upsetting for me then, and continues to be now. So with the record broken, attending any further inaugurations would be sort of pointless. Several people have pointed out of course that if I go to this one, I could still say that I'd gone to the FIRST inaugural of every president since I was old enough to vote... plus some extras (namely the second Clinton inaugural). With that they have said that it isn't too late, and I can still salvage something of this tradition. But that "Extra" messes up the pattern for me and would still bother me, as that was not the original intention. I was supposed to go to ALL of them. Finally, if I was going to have decided to go, I would have needed to do so *BEFORE* the election, so as to ensure that who won the election would not be an influence on my decision. I would have needed to be equally committed to going no matter who won. Going only if the guy you like wins seems to me a corruption of the whole inaugural institution and why I might want to go. It is a historical event worthy of note and interest and attendance no matter who wins or loses. In the only communications I made prior to the election on this subject (which was several months ago, thus not tainted by the election results), I indicated, for the same reasons as I did above, that me going is unlikely. So I will need to stick with that I think. I would hate to decide to go now with an Obama victory, not completely and totally certain that I would also have gone if McCain won. Again, if I'd managed to go in 2005, then going now would be an absolute requirement, but me missing it in 2005 means that even thinking about going now, just makes me upset that I didn't go in 2005, so with all that... I probably will not come. However, thank you very much for the offer of a place to stay. :-) I will still be upset on inauguration day that I am here watching it on TV instead of there in person, but that damage was already done in 2005. Going now would be a hollow exercise that would probably make me more sad than happy. I think. Dunno.Could you tell I was still bitter?
fly to Philly and rent a car.
And sleep in it?