Point of View

A lesson in freedom from on high

January 24, 2013 

With a lot of good luck and a good friend, I started my drive to Washington, D.C., on Sunday for we had tickets to the Obama inauguration.

On Monday, following a yellow then blue metro ride with a glorious long escalator ride up to the surface, we wait our way through the security check. White-capped volunteers guide us to our red-section area in the audience around the Capitol. The young volunteers are part of a team providing crowd control. The team also has uniformed members of the various branches of the U.S. military and Capitol cops. But, with the close-out of the program and the disbursement of the crowd, only the DC cops are on duty.

The day is overcast and cold, but we relish being a part of an enthusiastic crowd of like-minded people. We stand; we chant, “O-BA-MA”; we cheer; we wave; and we’re happy to be together for this occasion.

When we look back, we see the larger part of the audience on the mall. They must have all been given American flags to wave as this sea of people has a shifting haze of red, white and blue hovering over them. It is a wonderful patriotic spectacle.

However, lurking in the midst of this celebration is one irritant. Someone has climbed a large fir tree near the red section. A man carrying a home-made circular shield of a sign is making his way to the top of the tree. He has a captive audience.

Quickly, a pursuer joins him in the tree. One of the officials has attempted a removal of this protester. Yet, midway up the tree, he must have realized that securing the yelling and shouting protester could easily result in both of them falling from the tree. The official gives up and retreats, which leaves the protester in possession of his tree perch.

He shouts out his protest of abortion throughout the ceremony. He has a running commentary about babies, unborn babies, and the crime of abortion. His voice is heard in the background during the prayers, the poem, the introductions and the speeches. I wonder when his throat will give out as surely it must sometime soon. But he carries on a constant litany with the word “baby” sounding out almost in a rhythm.

I am becoming more and more irritated by this guy. I want to focus and hear only the program I traveled to experience. I want to tell him if he doesn’t like abortion, then he shouldn’t have one. I want someone with a cherry picker to roll right up to him and take him away.

Then we have the close-out of the program with the retreating of the colors. We pause to give respect to the flag of the USA. With hand over heart, I think this is my country –a place of differences and a place of messy people trying to figure it all out. We have a country where we get to speak, even when we claim that right during the presidential inauguration.

This day almost all of us at the celebration have similar ideas. The guy up in the tree reminds me that we don’t always agree, but we get to speak and be heard. It’s the way we do things here, and I like it that way.

Deborah Brogden lives in Raleigh.

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