No, I've never really believed the hype, and realistically, I know things won't really be much different for people at the bottom of the heap.
But as the cold blue sky loomed over the National Mall, in a city that was once the epicenter of the slave trade, as a man whose very existence as the product of a racially-mixed relationship would have until very recently marked him as illegitimate in many states was sworn in to the highest office in the land...once I tuned out the inane babble of the clueless network know-it-alls and finished laughing at the Blofeld-like sight of Cheney in a wheelchair, then the images of all those people gathered to witness this historic event began to get to me. Reality and image and expectation ceased to matter. I started crying like a damned baby, is what I'm saying.
We can kid ourselves all we want that we live in a society where race is no longer an issue, but it still is, and will always be. It will be something that divides and unites us, will be the source of pride and shame. But it's there, and our reactions in times of crisis and joy will always be dictated by cultural factors. We will always be what we have always been. Human nature can never be transcended.
And Obama, after all, he's just one guy, and the reality of his presidency signifies nothing. He's surrounded by sycophants and business-as-usual types, and all along received the backing of corporate donors who will naturally expect a return on their investment. Hope? Change? Surely these are just buzzwords. Surely they are meaningless.
Except...that crowd. So many faces of a darker shade than usually seen at such events. So much love, such a feeling that maybe, just maybe, there's finally something to believe in, that there's a future that might include them. So many people filled with a spirit, a sense they can make something happen, a feeling the world has changed. So many questions--if this can be done, what else can be done, what else can be accomplished?
It will dissipate, of course, this moment in time. But it will always be remembered that it was here. It happened, and can happen again.