Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The End of Malevolent Tchotchkes

At my favorite Seattle bookstore they sold key rings with an electronic counter on them that ticked off the number of days left in the Bush administration. Maybe it was supposed to be reassuring—a reminder of finite-ness—but each time I saw the display at the checkout I’d sink a little deeper into a depression. The number was always so big. Thousands of days. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of days. Numbers so large they might as well have been infinity.

Today I sniffled all the way through the inauguration, my tears gaining momentum every time they showed those adorable Obama girls in their bright wooly coats and gloves, waving in a new family, a new administration, a new era. I feel how most everyone does right now—dazzled by the man (and the woman! and her yellow dress!), incredulous at our nation’s flagrant and totally out-of-left-field display of progressive ideals, cowed by the enormity of it all.

Apparently presidential terms are finite, even when two of them are served back-to-back by an evil dumdum with no tolerance for civil liberties. I’m a little ashamed that for eight years I stopped believing that “making a difference” makes a difference. I gave in to despair, ennui, apathy, and some cynicism (just to keep it real). It’s a wonder I got anything done at all in the last decade, much less that I was able to act cheerful long enough to pick up a fiancĂ©.

The bookstore sold out of the key chains around the time the number of days dipped down into the double digits—right around the time, according to my calculations, when the tchotchke was transformed from a taunting knickknack to a token of hope.

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