Where Was Everybody?
I know I said I'd drop the inauguration as a topic, but I can't resist a few more tidbits - such as the incredibly shrinking crowd estimates regarding who would and did attend. Originally the Mayor of Washington D.C. Adrian M. Fenty predicted four to five million would attend, a figure widely reported in the media. However, by late December the Washington Post had reduced the estimates to about two million. On the actual day, however, some sources are wondering whether it even set a new record, the old one being held by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965. Amazingly, the source most qualified to make an estimate, the U.S. Park Service, is forbidden by Congress from making estimates because of political pressure after many sources said the so-called Million Man March in 1995 didn't draw anywhere near a million people, perhaps as few as 400,000. Still the Park Service said it may release an estimate this year anyway, according to the L.A. Times:
Though early estimates ranged as high as 2 million people, satellite images of Obama's swearing-in suggested the crowd was probably about half that, said Clark McPhail, who has been analyzing crowds on the National Mall since the 1960s.
"It was sparser than I thought," said McPhail, a professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Illinois. "There were lots of open spaces...."
Park service spokesman David Barna said the agency probably would produce a number this year because of the historic nature of the event and public demand for an estimate.
"We don't think anyone in Congress will be really upset," he said.
However given the political pressure they've been under in the past which caused them to quit giving estimates, one wonders whether their final figure can be trusted. The L.A. Times also released these discouraging statistics - there were over 900 empty hotel rooms available in D.C. the day of the Inauguration and only 240,000 tickets had been distributed despite the fact that they were free. In any case, as for the original estimates of the Obama inaugural resulting in millions and millions of people flocking to the event - well, nevermind.
Among the Valley folk attending the inauguration was Amherst's Mary Carey. Here she is in the office of Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy.
I'm surprised to see how prominently Kennedy displays his portrait by Andy Warhol.
Boxes: Leave Me Out of Them
People ask me sometimes whether I am a liberal or a conservative. They ask this because they think they see elements of both in my political writing in ways they find contradictory and confusing.
My answer is this: neither and both.
The closest I can come to summarizing my ideology is that I'm anti-government, and that applies pretty much to whomever is in power. I don't think either side has a monopoly on the truth, and the smartest thing to do is to pick and choose among the warring factions from whatever side seems most in tune with reality. That will seldom bring you into consistent harmony with the Left or Right. As I wrote a few years ago:
Why are we so obsessed with putting labels on people and putting them into categories? I think it's because we're intellectually lazy, and we believe that if we have little boxes to put people in, with a set of characteristics for each box, then we don't have to go through the difficult, and sometimes scary process of actually getting to know people as individuals. If we think we know the characteristics of those we put in the Jew Box, or the Gay Box, or the Black Box, or the Conservative or Liberal Box, then all we have to know about anyone is what box they belong in and we think we know their major characteristics.
Except when we don't. For example it annoys me when people think, just because I'm queer, that I'm good at interior decorating or fashion. You want me to give you a makeover? Okay, just let me go get my fucking sledgehammer! Because I'm not swishy or feminine I don't fit comfortably into most people's Gay Box. In fact, I'm a mess of contradictions. I live in the richest community in the Valley (Amherst officially surpassed Longmeadow last year) but if someone thinks I'm rich the fact is I'm always on the verge of going broke. I'm constantly bickering with my partner, yet instead of splitting up we have red-hot sex. I'm a classic Valley slacker, but my ambition is to save the world.
Let's do away with these boxes and labels that confound and confuse us more than simplify or explain. Open your mind and your heart and expand your realm of possibilities. It's not that hard, just remember the following the next time you're tempted to slip into your categorizing ways:
Labels are for cans, not people.
This is too beautiful.