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A Call For a Moment of Non-Silence

January 16th, 2009 by dk

How many moments of silence have we shared as a nation over the last quarter century? Let’s take a moment together to whoop it up.
Don’t be alone Tuesday morning. Ask your boss for the day off. Or, if you know that won’t work, call in sick. Don’t sleep in. This is one presidential inauguration you won’t want to miss.

Tuesday morning, the eyes of the nation will be fixed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Officials are expecting between 3 million and 6 million visitors to be there. If you do the math, that means somewhere between one and two percent of all Americans will be there to see and be the spectacle. Turn to any page in the phone book and chances are good that five of those people listed will be there in the throbbing heart of humanity we’ll be looking at on our televisions.

Yes, I know the best parts of the event will be replayed endlessly for a week or a month. That’s not the point. This will be a “where were you when?” moment and you don’t want to say you were brushing your teeth, or looking for matching socks, or reading a book. You don’t want to say you were on your way to work, or getting your tires rotated, or shopping for a better breakfast cereal.

You have time to arrange your schedule, so do it. You don’t want to spend the rest of your life explaining you were busy.

As rare as these moments are, it’s even more rare that they are planned and uplifting. Our Bush presidents have started three wars, each during prime time, so Americans could tune in and watch, but that’s not the same as this. We know where we were when we heard about the attacks of 9-11, or when the Challenger Space Shuttle blew up, or when the Oklahoma City bombing happened.

How many moments of silence have we shared as a nation over the last quarter century? Let’s take a moment together to whoop it up.

Some of us remember the moment when we put a man on the moon. This will be like that. Going to the moon was a goal our nation focused on for almost ten years before we did it. Showing that all men are created equal, regardless of race, has been an effort that has taken slightly longer.

We’ll be able to watch our nation take a step toward racial equality and that will be fine, but what matters more is that we’ll begin together the act of rolling up our sleeves and becoming a single nation again. It’ll help if we each put our foot forward together when we start.

So don’t be alone. Make it a party. Invite others to your place or invite yourself elsewhere. Bijou Cinemas is hosting a benefit for those who want to watch it large and help out FOOD for Lane County and Dr. John Crumbley’s Youth Support Fund. (Details below.)

I’ve been invited by a good friend, who is the daughter of a retired dentist, to join her neighbors that morning. I’ll be sitting with a Middle Eastern scholar, a former Pakistani cricket player, an elderly New York advertising man and his caregiving wife (both Jewish), and a young Egyptian who just recently became eligible for U.S. citizenship. That living room will look a lot like what America has always strived to be: a place where all sorts of people arrive for many different reasons. Most of those reasons involve hope. The Pakistani is hosting. He has the largest television.

The dentist’s daughter saw this election up close as the shift we hope it will be. She could never be certain whether her father and mother would put aside their bigotry to vote for a man so different from them. She debated whether to share the news that her two twenty-something children had taken last semester off to work full-time at getting that man elected. And there she was, like so many of us, between generations, muddling along.

Martin Luther King Jr. would have been 80 years old yesterday. He was gunned down before he got halfway there. Monday is a day we’ve set aside to honor his memory. Tuesday will honor the work we’ve all done since then, together.

It all begins Tuesday morning. Don’t be alone.


Tickets to watch the inauguration celebration at the Bijou Theater benefit and can be purchased at The Eugene Wellness Center, 1405 Mill St., Eugene. For information, call 344-8912. Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs here.

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  • 1 Jim Hale Jan 16, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    Some people watch this event only when their man (so far, it’s been a man) wins.
    Some of us watch every time, even when our party didn’t win.
    Most people never watch.
    Some of us are squarely behind this President.
    Some of us will be behind him only when he does something we like.
    Some of us think that will be a rare occurrence. Most people will be running behind on current events.
    Some of us think it will be good to see an African American family in the White House.
    Some of us think that man should have been more qualified…like say Colin Powell.
    Some of us will be watching Tuesday.
    Some of us will be watching for the next four years.
    Most of us seldom watch.