Editors' Note: Guest blogger Jeff Buppert's work has appeared in Frontiers, Drummer and The Family Business Report, as well as BuzzFlash and on stage at the Powerhouse Theater in Santa Monica; his story on gay adoption will appear in the upcoming anthology series Cup of Comfort, due out this spring.
When the horror of 9/11 happened I was living in Eastern Standard Time. I watched the events of that tragedy unfold live and in living color.
Had I still been living in California, I would have climbed into bed on the night of 9/10, snuggled up to my partner, and fallen asleep like any other night. But when the alarm went off in the morning and the television came on -- that's the way our alarm works, it's in our television -- I would have fumbled for the remote, wiped the sleep out of my eyes, and been greeted by the sights and sounds of a world that had changed.
I was five years old when John F. Kennedy was shot. I have no idea where I was or what I was doing. When Martin Luther King was killed I was almost ten, but I don't remember that either.
It is the images of 9/11 that are seared into my memory, the constant news coverage on which I fed for days, that give me an idea of what people must have felt when JFK and MLK were assassinated. It is these images that fill me with fear in this time of hope.
America has a new president, and for the first time in years we are proud again. The world is embracing us again, welcoming us again. Change has come and we have hope again.
So then why am I so fearful?
My fear is the same one that is in the back of everyone else's mind. That nagging, too-terrible-to-speak-its-name thought that something terrible will happen to Barack Obama. That some nut job will pull a trigger. That in the blink of an eye our joy will be snuffed and our hope will be shattered. That a blood red curtain will come down on our bright new dream.
And in an instant the world as we know it will be changed. Again.
I was thrilled on election night. I jumped up and down like a crazy person, but I only allowed myself to watch Barack Obama's victory speech out of the corner of one eye. I was too afraid. I was afraid that as my charismatic savior greeted the throngs of screaming masses in Grant Park, joyous and renewed and optimistic for our collective futures, that I would see a bullet enter his forehead just as I had seen that second plane enter the World Trade Center. Unexpected. Horrifying. Catastrophic.
Part of me feels that I should never admit to having had such fears, let alone utter them out loud, but they were so real; so painfully, paralyzingly, real. If I couldn't enjoy that first wondrous moment, how can I enjoy the next four years?
We have a president who inspires us, a rock star leader who has people dancing in the streets on every corner of the globe, and yet I'm consumed with the fear that his popularity could kill him -- and the dreams of the world along with him.
I don't remember a time when hope and optimism have ever been so great, but can it last? Is change even possible in this post-9/11 world in which we live? Can the terrorists and the racists and the fanatics, both homegrown and foreign-born, learn to disagree without the need for violence? Can it be that the world is finally ready for peace?
I hope the answer is yes, but I fear the answer is no.
Most people keep their fears to themselves subscribing to the silly notion that if they don't talk about something it either doesn't exist or it will simply go away. I have never been one of those people. Fear, like hope, is real, and I admit to having both.
So the question then becomes, how do I handle my fear?
On election night, to thousands of people on that field in Chicago, to millions listening around the world, and to me, at home in front of my television, with one eye closed and my finger hovering over the off button of my remote, Barack Obama answered that question.
He said, "What we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow." As usual, he was simple and eloquent. His focus was on tomorrow not yesterday, hope not fear.
Maybe with time I can learn to do the same.