I did not watch Barack Obama’s farewell speech on the night he delivered it. The mere mention of it brought tears to the brim. I was afraid that if I watched in real time as he and his family arrived for his swan song, amid the tumultuous cheers of a loving crowd, I might be sent keening and wailing into the night.
A few days later I listened to the speech on my iPad, in bed, early in the morning. And I watched the last few minutes, my electronic tablet perched on my lap. Being at a remove from the proceedings, via YouTube, diluted the immediacy, the terrible reality of the occasion.
I’m not much of a weeper. I’ve never wept while reading a book, nor have I been brought to tears during a movie – except for one, “The Trip to Bountiful,” starring Geraldine Page. My strong reaction to the film was unexpected. The tears erupted and lasted a while. It must have been that the sad plight of Page’s character reminded me of things that had happened in my mother’s life. Charlie was so startled by my outburst he later quipped that he was worried he might have to douse me with a bucket of ice water.
My reaction, was, I believe, the mourning in advance of my mother’s death. When her time finally came, many years later, after a long and stressful decline, there were no tears. I was prepared. And although I had been terrified all my life at the prospect of her demise, when the time finally came, relief was what I felt, for her and for myself.
An occasion on which I unexpectedly erupted into tears was when I addressed the orchestra to bid them adieu upon my retirement. I’m sure my colleagues were shocked to see this person they probably thought of as a cold fish burst into tears, helplessly blubbering thanks for four decades of friendship and music-making. Although I had made the choice to retire, I knew that my life would never be the same. And that has proven to be true.
My reaction to Obama’s valedictory might not have been so extreme if he were being replaced by a normal person. But he’s leaving us to a mean child who, by contrast, has never learned how to be a decent human being. Even those who despise Obama must, at some level, agree that he is a fine gentleman who has borne his challenges with dignity. If they were expecting an angry black man in the White House they must have been sorely disappointed. Did we make a pact with the devil? And is this the price we now pay?
Our country is about to be handed over to a perverse and ignorant man who knows little and feels no need to learn. And he has no interest in the effects of his behavior on his targets as he oozes contempt for the best, and for the weakest among us.
I am bereaved, I am disconsolate, I am sorrowful for what we are losing. And I will keen and wail into the night until, on some distant day, my tears are finally spent.