From In These Times
In retrospect, George W. Bush’s presidency could be viewed as a science-fiction disaster movie in which an alien force seizes illegitimate control of a nation, saps its wealth, wreaks devastation, but is finally dislodged and forced to depart amid human hope for a rebirth.
There was even a satisfying concluding scene as a new human leader takes power amid cheers of a liberated populace. The alien flees aboard a form of air transportation (in this case, a helicopter), departing to the jeers of thousands and many wishes of good riddance.
After Bush’s departure on Jan. 20, 2009, the real-life masses actually had the look of survivors in a disaster movie, dressed mostly in ragtag clothing—ski caps, parkas, boots and blankets—bent against the cold winds trudging through streets largely devoid of traffic.
My 20-year-old son, Jeff, and I made our way home from the Mall to our house in Arlington, Virginia, by hiking across the 14th Street Bridge, part of the normally busy Interstate 395, except that only buses and official vehicles were using it on Inauguration Day.
So, the bridge became an impromptu walkway with clumps of half-frozen pedestrians straggling across it, over the icy Potomac. Jeff and I picked an exit ramp near the Pentagon, clambered over some road dividers, and worked our way to Pentagon City where we’d parked the car. It took much of the afternoon and evening for the cold to work its way out of our bodies.
Everyone I’ve talked to who attended Barack Obama’s Inauguration had similar tales of transportation woes—standing in long lines in freezing temperatures, frustrated by jammed subway stations, walking long distances—but no one was angry. Remarkably, police reported no Inaugural-related arrests.
Despite the grim economy and other havoc left behind by Bush and his associates, Inauguration Day 2009 was filled with a joy that I have rarely seen on the streets of Washington, a city that even at its best is not known for spontaneous bursts of happiness.
But there was more than joy that day; there was a sense of liberation.
An estimated 1.8 million people braved the frigid temperatures and the transportation foul-ups to witness not only Obama’s swearing-in, but Bush’s ushering-out. They not only cheered Obama and other favorites, but many booed those considered responsible for the national plundering, especially Bush and the wheelchair-bound Dick Cheney.