Monday, January 19, 2009

That's How They Did It When I Was Just a Kid

By Kevin Guilfoile

My five-year-old Max provides a running commentary about everything that's happening. All things are given roughly the same importance, reported with the same level of excitement. A new Scooby Doo is described with the same urgency as a friend coming to visit or the appearance of freshly fallen snow or an invitation to put stickers on things. His brother Vaughn is two and can't say very much yet and so he just sort of is. Yesterday Vaughn was dancing and Max ran up to me, a thrill in his voice and reported, "Daddy do you know what? Vaughn is dancing with great joy!"

It is tempting to write about the inauguration tomorrow. When you've wished for something longer than you thought the thing you were wishing for was possible, it's difficult not to go on and on about it as it happens. Thousands of people will be live-blogging the event. The internet has given us all these little soapboxes and it seems sensible at a time like this to climb up on them.

I've been writing regularly about Barack Obama for two years now. I've been writing about George Bush, with a distinctly different tone, for more than nine. I share the excitement, the hope, the anticipation about tomorrow with millions of others. And yet I'm inclined at this point to just shut up about it.

We live in an age of immediate context, of instant commentary. A thing can hardly happen before we start explaining what it means. All of this can be illuminating, but it can also be distancing. Context is information, but it's also noise. Every generation after ours will be able to put tomorrow's inauguration in context, but the one thing they won't be able to do, the one thing we have the privilege of ourselves, is to shut up and enjoy it.

I'm glad that so many people from all over the country are headed to Washington for the event. I hope most of them will be able to keep their cell phones in their pockets, their texting fingers inside their gloves. They won't really see it, won't really hear it, won't really live it, if they are too busy passing it on.

For the time being anyway, what it means is a lot less important than what it is. If you see people dancing with great joy on the mall tomorrow, you know what to do. You can tell everybody about it later.

20 comments:

Sara Paretsky said...

Kevin, you're so wise. And your last sentence was a beauty of craft and meaning. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Amen, brother.

Barbara D'Amato said...

Yes, Kevin. I find myself smiling sometimes and wonder why. Then I think, oh, that's right--

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