by G.M. Malliet
Is it just chance that my turn to blog is on Inauguration Day? Because it does seem fitting - we've had a front-row seat for weeks to some of the preparations for the inauguration. Rather thrillingly, we've had the Coast Guard zipping up and down the Potomac River in their fast boats, no more than a block from our house. Bridges into DC from Virginia have now been blocked (and didn't that go over well with the Virginians - we can't even walk across some of these bridges). Chartered buses have been jamming the roads for days now. We've had Air Force jets steadily circling overhead - we're on the flight path to National, so we've been declared a no-fly zone for private and commercial planes. (The sky, at least, is blissfully quiet.)
But it's also been weird. If I walk down our main street, I'm liable to be walking behind some guy with a Glock strapped to his thigh. Take the Metro, and there's someone standing there with a submachine gun.
We could be at war, but we're just trying to get a president safely into the White House.
A lot of people opted out of the whole thing and are spending the four-day weekend elsewhere. I wish I could tell you I am reporting from an undisclosed location, but in fact, in the end, I wanted to feel that I was a part of this occasion (although buckets full of gold could not induce me to be among the mobs of people standing around for the swearing in - we'll watch that on TV from the safety of either our living room or Market Square).
But it all makes me awfully proud - again - to be an American. When Obama was elected, people in Europe and elsewhere said how great it was that America was finally growing up. But ... do you see a lot of black or mixed-race leaders in, for example, Europe? Sorry, because I know this gets aggravating, but I think this is America - once again - leading the way.
I digress. The topic is the Day of Service. Yesterday, as a change from the siege mentality, and wanting at least to be part of the National Day of Service, we joined the volunteers of getinvolved.gov and local high-schoolers in helping clean up the grim shores of the tidal Potomac. George Washington's Potomac is a beautiful river, as long as you can overlook the plastic bottle caps, tires, and miscellaneous garbage that has accumulated along its shores. You would probably not want to eat any fish you might manage to catch in it. All this a few short miles from the White House. These terrific volunteers couldn't overlook the destruction of our natural resources any longer, and some time ago began helping the Park Service clean up the broken beer bottles, the construction junk, and the ubiquitous plastic.
Here's a small, tiny fraction of what they managed to clear in a few hours - see below. Incredible. Nothing more to say. Just: incredible that we let it get to this. I applaud our new president for getting more people moving on this day to help save our environment.
Obama has a lot on his plate - the economy alone is a fulltime job for a hundred thousand people.
Maybe if we help take care of the planet he can focus more on the rest of everything else.