It is here: the last day of the Bush Administration.
Eight years ago, I was living in Washington, D.C. My then-job, which I had hated with a passion I have never felt for any employment previously or since, had been "eliminated" in a down-sizing and my company had offered me a very big check in reward. I had been divorced less than six months; I was exhausted. I had stayed up all night with my best friend on election night as Florida went this way and that. My Mom and I had driven up to the Naval Observatory and honked for Gore. I had been horrified by the puerile shenanigans that had seemingly decided the election. And I was so discouraged.
Eight years ago, my Mom (with whom I lived after my divorce in a house we had bought together and had loved and had sold -- eight months after buying it, in the height of the first bubble, for many more thousands of dollars than we had paid for it -- a sale I have always regretted, not only because I had loved the house, but because its historic character -- it had been a tavern at which Lewis and Clark stayed the night before they left to cross the country, a tavern at which President Jefferson had met them -- was decimated by those who bought it from us) had already moved to California.
I was, eight years ago, in that historic house I loved so much, alone, amongst the last of our belongings, packing up after its sale.
In the basement of our historic house was the original brick floor of the tavern -- bricks worn down by the servants then, who perhaps had served Thomas Jefferson or Merriwether Lewis a pint of ale. The worn and unlevel floor had been coated by some anti-historical heathen with cement some decades earlier, but the cement had cracked and worn away and the bricks were showing through again. I loved looking at those original bricks, and rubbing my bare feet over them, wondering about those whose shoes had trod upon them before.
Today, to me, has been like finding those wonderful bricks again.
So much of this country’s greatness has been cemented over these past eight years. It has been as if the beautiful bricks that laid its cornerstones never existed. It has been as if the rule of law, our adherence to the Geneva Conventions, our national commitment to the Great Society, our sense of our country as a shining city on a hill, never existed at all. It has been, for so many millions of Americans not only a nightmare from which we were waiting desperately to wake up, but a nightmare we were only hoping to survive.
We have survived it; but at so much expense to all of us. And not just "expense" in the financial sense -- although goodness knows, save for those who have war-profiteered from the excesses of Halliburton and Blackwater, all of us have seen our financial futures rocked or destroyed by the horrors of the current economy -- but in the moral sense, as well. Before the election of Barack Obama, before his graceful speeches on election night or today, how many of us had regained our hope and pride in being Americans?
Our President-elect -- tomorrow (tomorrow!) our President -- has an awesome job in front of him, as do we all. Because it is not just President-elect Barack Obama who must rebuild this nation, but all of us. We did not pour the cement over the bricks, but it is up to all of us to help find them again.
We are so close; may we never be further away.