MONDAY, JANUARY 19 This week of closed chapters, new beginnings, and another goddamn death by monster truck kicks off with the national holiday devoted to Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., the visionary civil-rights leader who, among many other things, gave America its finest example of engaged, empathetic, hopeful anger, and who continues to inspire citizens four decades after his tragic death by assassination. To commemorate the man and his day, BBC News dusted off some 1964 footage of Dr. King predicting an African-American president in less than 25 years—a fittingly double-edged acknowledgement of tomorrow's history-making inauguration of President Barack Obama, who today paid tribute to his historical forebear by issuing a typically eloquent, quietly challenging statement: "As we go forward in the work of renewing the promise of this nation, let's remember King's lesson—that our separate dreams are really one."
TUESDAY, JANUARY 20 Nothing happened today, unless you count the history-making inauguration of President Obama, a thoroughly gratifying event that involved a reported two million eyewitnesses and zero assassination attempts. And while the day provided its share of schadenfreude porn—from a visibly squirmy Dubya to a wheelchair-bound Dick Cheney—the overall theme of the day was far more complex and inclusive. Best illustration of this complex inclusiveness: the presence of Rick Warren, the evangelical Christian pastor whose inclusion in the inauguration struck many as a slap in the face to gay Americans and those who love them (Warren has a longstanding problem of oppressing and bad-mouthing the gays). Despite the lefty outcry, Obama's invitation to Warren was honored, and hurrah: Millions of evangelical Americans got confirmation there would be a place for them in Obama's brave new world, and millions of nonevangelical Americans got confirmation that Warren is as compelling and charismatic as a mid-tier used-car salesman. But seriously: To paraphrase the editorial cartoonist Dan Wasserman, bless this presidency for its tolerance of Rick Warren's intolerance. Last Days does not want four or eight years of retaliatory governing from the Democrats; we want a president who's going to try to find a way to make this country work for everyone, even bigoted shitheads, who might eventually learn a thing or two from being included instead of just vilified. Someone's got to take the high road, and since it's never going to be Republicans and fundamentalists, it's up to Democrats and progressives. (If ever there was a day for potentially ridiculous hopefulness, this is it.)
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 21 Nothing happened today, unless you count Last Days' perverse insistence on cutting the past two days' unprecedented hopefulness with a dose of infuriating far-right garbage, procured from the "conservative" kookfest Free republic.com, where both writers and commenters were inspired to new heights of racist hilarity by the inauguration of the nation's first nonwhite president. Never mind that exposing oneself to such garbage is the intellectual equivalent of sniffing rotten milk (you know it's going to be horrible, but that's why you do it): Last Days was perversely pleased to learn that the crap on Freerepublic.com was exactly what we feared and worse. One example: The thread devoted to the lifelong suckiness of Aretha Franklin, who was torn apart not only for her generally okay performance at the inauguration, but for her entire career, which was portrayed as a four-decades-and-counting sham kept afloat only by a never- ending supply of white guilt. Another commenter blasted Franklin's flourish-ridden approach to the "My Country, Tis of Thee" melody, inspiring another commenter to note that black singers insist on doing such vocal runs out of an inbred inability to follow rules. As steam whistled out of our ears, Last Days ruminated on why we're driven to expose ourselves to such shit. Are we so conditioned by eight years of Bush that we demand a certain amount of indignation just to feel normal? Is this a question for Mistress Matisse? Eventually we were rescued from our indignation overdose by our fella Jake, who wisely pointed out that anyone willing to stand by the thesis "black people ruined music" is too stupid to waste anger on.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 22 Meanwhile in New York, a bunch of appellate-court judges were actively devoting themselves to making the world a better and fairer place, ruling that same-sex marriages entered into outside of New York must be recognized by the state. As the Associated Press reports, today's case was instigated by a coalition of New York State taxpayers who sued the state Department of Civil Service for extending health-insurance benefits to same-sex spouses of state employees. In a most satisfying blow, today the appellate court affirmed that the state was following the law in doing so. Vive l'égalité!
FRIDAY, JANUARY 23 Speaking of progress: Today, President Obama reversed Bush-era restrictions on government funding for groups providing abortion counseling or services overseas, thrilling supporters of abortion rights ("The repeal of the global gag rule means that health clinics in developing countries will again be able to offer the world's poorest women access to much needed reproductive-health services, from birth control to prenatal care," cheered NARAL) and striking fear in the hearts of the "abortion is America's Holocaust" crowd ("Today marks the beginning of the Obama assault on life," proclaimed Susan Armacost of Wisconsin Right to Life; "Barack Obama will be the most pro-abortion president in the history of our nation"). Whee!
SATURDAY, JANUARY 24 The week continues with the second monster truck–related fatality in two weeks. As readers will remember, it was just last Friday when 6-year-old Sebastian Hizey of Puyallup was fatally struck by a hunk of metal that flew off a monster truck doing doughnuts at the Tacoma Dome. Addressing that tragedy before today's monster-truck rally in Madison, Wisconsin, promoter George Eisenhart Jr. defended his group's safety record, telling Associated Press reporters, "This is our 16th year, and I wish I had a big piece of wood to knock on right now, but we have not had an incident besides a gal slipping in the aisle at another location." Tragically, at today's rally, Eisenhart was fatally crushed by a monster truck. As the AP reports, "Video footage from the Saturday-night event clearly shows the promoter being hit by one of the show's giant trucks as he stepped back out onto the floor from an entryway." Condolences to Eisenhart's friends and family, and congratulations, irony.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 25 The week ends with a couple hundred concerned citizens braving sudden freezing temperatures to protest the proposed closing of several Seattle schools catering to the nonwhite and nonmoneyed. "School board, just face it—these closures are racist," chanted the crowd before embarking on a march from T.T. Minor Elementary School to the Garfield Community Center. As Joseph E. Lowery made so vibrantly clear at Tuesday's inauguration, just because it kinda rhymes doesn't mean it's not completely true.