Inauguration 2009: A Rant

There was much to be happy about today and I will blog about that in a bit, but I do need to point out something:

Whoever was in charge of the logistics of this day from the Metro and other public transport to safely getting ticketed people into the designated areas IS MADE OF FAIL. I have rarely been so frustrated and annoyed and I have rarely seen a clusterfuck bigger than the one I witnessed today.

Starting with transportation: as I said, we got our tickets yesterday, so we didn’t have to wait in a long line at the start. However, our train took 3 times as long to get into town because there were so many people trying to get on and the cars were full by the fourth stop away from the terminus. As people tried to cram themselves in, they held up trains in front of us, our train, and the trains behind. Though the city claimed to have been ready for the estimated 2 million people showing up for this thing, they were clearly not.

They had to shut down certain stations because too many people were crowding the platforms, then open them as they cleared the folks out. We had to go one stop further than the suggested stop because of one of these closings, and thus had to come to our gate in a roundabout way. I don’t think it would have helped had we come from the intended stop, because for some reason the Blue Gate line was completely useless.

Each ticket had a color, designating your section. Every section had an entry point for security checks and then the actual gate. We passed the Orange line, which had a clearly marked entrance and path. The Blue had no such thing. We kept going to different parts of an ever changing line, no one was ever sure it was the right line, there were no cops, security, line coordinators, or anything to help. Let me repeat: there was no one managing our line, and it was already breaking down into chaos by the time we arrived.

The inauguration ceremony began at 10, the swearing in at 12. They opened the gates at 8 or 9 and closed then at 11:30, officially. What genius thought that they could facilitate getting a quarter of a million people sorted, through security, and into the standing area in 2.5 – 3.5 hours? I don’t know what the other lines were line, but with the Blue line, there was very little movement and, in the end, we didn’t get in and no one told us why. Looking at the footage on television, I have to wonder if they gave out too many tickets and there just wasn’t any more room.

Still, there was so much that could have been done better, including opening the gates at 5am. It may have still resulted in the area filling up completely before everyone got in, but there would have been time to redirect people elsewhere. The lines should have been tightly controlled, because thousands of confused people all together is never, ever a good thing. All traffic through the area where lines crossed streets should have been halted – yes, SUVs broke the line more than once. When the inauguration ended, there should have been controlled egress to the Metro stations instead of letting people mob the entrances, having no other choice.

I want to smack every person involved in coordinating this, because they obviously failed to consider so much and completely fucked my day. However, there were some bright spots – I’ll blog about them later. For now, I sleep… and then get on a bus.

Countdown to the Inauguration: ABW Waits in Line. A Lot.

Today we did not take place in the Day of Service because we planned to go into DC, get our tickets, then go meet up with family in Maryland. We thought this adventure would take a few hours, we did not count on it taking over 6.

In hindsight, it was probably foolish of us not to have anticipated this.

The fun started when we got to the Metro station in Fairfax, VA. It never occurred to us that there would be a long, long line just to get tickets, but there was. We stood in it for about an hour and a half. I don’t know what it was like at other stations, but I think that since ours was a terminus and near enough to several hotels, there was just a glut of people. We wisely bought our tickets for tomorrow when we got up to the machines.

To the Metro’s credit, there were station officers there controlling the lines and helping people buy their tickets on unfamiliar equipment, so the process went smoothly.  Just there were just SO MANY people, it took a while.

Once we got into DC we easily found our way to the congressional office building where our tickets were waiting. However, we encountered even more lines! Something like a quarter million people are receiving tickets from their senators and representatives and today was the first chance for most to pick them up. I saw one woman getting her packet and getting so excited that she was really going to be there and it was all going to happen, I thought she was going to hug the aide to death.

We despaired of ever getting through the line when we spotted staffers from the representative our tickets came from. They were out taking names, getting tickets, and bringing them down so people could get through the process faster. After about 20 minutes we had our passes and instructions and were ready to leave for Maryland. Union Station is only a few blocks away from the Capitol, so we headed that way and stopped for a few tourist shots.

Then Union Station was a complete madhouse. Entrances blocked, bad directions, chaos everywhere. And this isn’t even the day of!

The thing that I found most fascinating was the amount of tacky Obama merchandise people were hawking. Not just t-shirts and pins, but flags, capes, hats, earmuffs, pictures, posters, CAPES. It struck me again how great Obama’s branding is. It also made me wonder if there was this much tacky merchandise for Bush. I don’t remember a 4-day celebration for him, either. Is this the mark of a great 21st century president?

Pictures to come. Tomorrow I’m not sure I’ll be able to do my liveblogging – we’re checking on it tonight. But no matter what, I will be there!

Countdown to the Inauguration: ABW Arrives in DC

I held off on mentioning this until I was sure it would be a reality, but now it can be told: I’m attending the Inauguration of President Obama! Yay!

I just arrived in DC on the Chinatown bus and am waiting in a Starbucks for my cousin to pick me up. More family arrives tomorrow and hooking up with other family will happen Monday. Tuesday we all make the long trek to the Inauguration site, and then sometime late that night I go home. It’ll be an intense few days, but I am very excited.

This morning the bus was packed with young, politically charged people excited for the festivities. And when we arrived in DC, about 4 buses came in short succession, all filled to the brim with people.

Today I plan to chill at my cousin’s and get some work done while waiting for my other family. Tomorrow we have to go into DC proper to get our tickets and I’m sure someone has plans for doing something.

But Tuesday after the swearing in and parades and such, I have a lot of time to kill and must stay in DC as my bus leaves at 11:30pm. (I might try to get on an earlier bus, depending.) If any readers out there are going to be in the city and maybe want to hook up at a party or something, or are hosting a party of your own, let me know! I may not be too tired. :)

More information as it comes (and pictures!). I’ll be liveblogging the ceremony if the weather allows.

Of Supreme Court Cases, Citizenship, and Uncle Tom

So the news that Clarence Thomas has asked the Supreme Court to consider whether to take up a lawsuit challenging President-elect Barack Obama’s U.S. citizenship has hit the airwaves. This story is running all over the blogosphere and much as I hate to agree with Clarence Thomas he’s actually not selling out Obama by putting this case up for consideration. Instead he’s cutting the feet out from under it being filed AGAIN by having the court examine it and refuse to hear it. Just saying, before people get up in arms they might want to really examine what it means for one of the justices to distribute a case to the other members of the Court.

Look, as made clear by the 807 e-mail forwards devoted to tearing down Barack Obama’s candidacy a lot of people are willing to spend big bucks on trying to prove he’s not fit to lead even if they have to try to pull out obscure technicalities, conspiracy theories, and just make some stuff up. Better to let the air be cleared now and get all of these challenges out of the way than to waste any time over the next four years dealing with this mess. So, examine his birth certificate, argue over whether his mother’s age at birth affects his citizenship, and bring all of the “He’s a Muslim, a fascist, a terrorist, the Anti-Christ” stuff on out into the light. Do it now and get it over with because in 6 weeks? He’s going to be busy trying to fix the hot mess that is our economy and I’d rather he be able to focus on that mess than on replying to this nonsense. For once Clarence Thomas is absolutely doing the right thing. Give him some credit for it instead of calling him names.

Some Truths That Perhaps Have Not Sunk In Yet

Black people in California =/= All Black People

10% of population =/= 100% of the problem

~30% of Black Californians Who Voted NO on Prop 8 =/= People you can spit on, blame, rage at, and dismiss, then turn around and expect to support you. Not that they would support a ban on gay marriage and other gay rights issues (because, if you’ve forgotten, many of that 30% are LGBTQ), but I wouldn’t count on their money, or their time, or the effort it takes to knock on doors, talk to people, and other grassroots activism. No matter how much I believed in a cause, even if it affects me personally, I would have a hard time being active for a group that actively despises me, devalues me, and blames me for their own problems.

The Black Community =/= Monolithic Groupmind

Black People =/= The Reason Prop 8 Passed

Are we clear now?

(thanks to Jenn for the inspiration)

It’s Morning In America

Last night America elected its first black president.  We made history, as everyone still enjoys saying.  And I think we’ve earned the right to bask in the glow for a little bit.

But listen, there’s still a lot to be done.

First and foremost, it should be stated that, although come January we will have a Black president, that does not mean that racism is “over”.  That having a black president does not end the dialogue we have on this blog, on other blogs, and in meatspace about race, prejudice, and the challenges people of color face in this country and the world.  Obama’s win only proves that he specifically had what it took to win this election.  It wasn’t that any black person could have won, just as not any random woman could have won.  McCain made the mistake of thinking that; of looking at people like labels.

So there’s still a lot of anti-racist work to be done.  Racism still needs to be eliminated.  And while I’m hopeful that having a black president is one major step in that direction, it can also cause a setback as people throw “But we have a black president!” in our faces every time we bring up the deep-seated problems in this country.  We can’t let that happen.

Another important thing to remember is that Obama is not perfect and he’s not supernatural.  While we can rejoice in his presidency, we can’t cut him any slack.  And I think we must be willing, as activists and as non-activists, to work hard for change.  He said as much in his speech last night, so let’s hold him to his word.  More than ever we need to hold a president to his word this time around.

Am I wrong to feel, to hope, that doing so will be easier?  That in 4 years I’m going to feel better about my country than I do today?  Obama has never shared all of my values, but I am overwhelmed right now with a good feeling.


He swept straight past McCain to victory. I am laying on my floor trying to catch my breath. Because this happened in my lifetime. And I cannot believe that I got to see this day.