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Tightly Bridled Optimism

It’s stunning for me to realize: Today is a great day in American history.

I can recall plenty of dark days. September 11th and Hurricane Katrina come immediately to mind. But I’ve been racking my mind to come up with a day on which I felt a sense of pride like today.

Can’t think of one.

Funny thing about pride. It seems to come in at least a couple of different flavors. There’s a belligerent kind of pride, a swaggering boastful emotion. But there’s also a quiet kind, which seems to carry with it an overwhelming sense of humility. That seems paradoxical to me. But anyway it’s that latter kind of pride I’m feeling today. It’s not about me, it’s nothing I’ve earned, but I feel grateful and happy to be a part of it all the same.

And I can’t remember the last time I felt this way.

I’m proud for my country, and that’s such a strange feeling for me. Also strange: I’m proud of my generation. I don’t think I’ve ever really had these feelings before, and they’re kind of taking me by surprise. I’m kind of getting choked up.

And I’m also feeling hopeful. But it’s a highly qualified sense of hope. There’s a reason for that.

Reagan. Bush. Clinton. Bush again. Those are the presidents I have known as an adult, and I really haven’t been happy with any of them. There was a time, from roughly the election of ’92 to Clinton’s inauguration, when I felt this sense of hope. Once Clinton actually got into office, however, I was quickly disappointed.

Having been fooled once, I’m more cautious now. I’m also sixteen years older and commensurately sadder — I won’t say wiser. My expectations have been sorely diminished. Even so, all these years of disappointment have taught me to keep my hopes under wrap.

I characterized my take on our prospects in New Orleans after Katrina as “tightly bridled optimism.” I’m sure I’m not the first person to coin that phrase, but you wouldn’t know it from searching Google. Maybe I should trademark it, because I’ve come to realize it’s my signature emotion.

And, for sure, it’s what I’m feeling today. Optimistic, yes, but not uncritically so. I can’t let loose, can’t let my guard down entirely, not even today. My skepticism and pessimism are too deeply held.

I am more hopeful for our future than at any time in my adult life, but that’s not saying much. Or maybe it is. I don’t even know anymore.

Still, a great day in American history. I’m profoundly glad to see this day.

Published inPolitix


  1. dloye dloye

    It’s a great descriptive. Your explanation of why it’s descriptive sure sent my head off in a few surprising directions.

  2. Hmmm.. it’s a wordpress blog. Now I understand why my aged family members have problems ….. Are you geeky enough to …. Did you know that if you hit enter in any of the fields above the message box, you are finished. Comment submitted. Strange, very strange.

  3. I didn’t vote for President Obama and don’t particularly like him, but I, too, feel proud of and humbled by all the events that have brought us this one step closer. Well said, b.

  4. […] agree with editor B.  He summarized the historic and proud nature of today much better than I can right now. I watched […]

  5. Tim Tim

    I agree completely, B. I’m optimistic and even excited. I wore red, white and blue to work today. But you know I didn’t vote for President Obama–I voted Green. And I also don’t think fondly of Bill Clinton’s years in the White House. So I’m with you–cautiously optimistic is the way I put it.



  6. rickngentilly rickngentilly

    i’m one year from the patton oswald 50 year birfday concept.

    pretty much spent my working days up to this point in french quarter kitchens .

    never understood the hate on the gays or the poor because they where allways my co-workers.

    people i spend 40 hours or plus a week with.

    if you want to understand a man or a women go to battle with them in a kitchen or a dining room.

    you will get to know them as a human and to not love or hate them as a skin color or sexual preference.

    it allways tickles me when some new kid comes in all full of piss and vinegar acting like a dickhead and 6 weeks later tells me i thought you were a racists and a homophobe but now that im in the house groove i realize you were just hating on me for being a newbie.

    it’s got to suck being black and gay and coming from bum fuck no-where to cook in the 1/4 only to find some old fart taking you to task for your skills.

    the thing thats funny is some come here to hone their skills and some just come here to get away from the oppression of their little bum fuck town.

    the job we do together is not judged by skin or sex or who you go home with at the end of the day.

    it’s about kicking ass for the house which really is an analogy for how this country works in the best of times.

    thats my take.

    blue collar paid my mortgage and i got no shame in the fact.

    our blue collar home owner neighborhoods should not be made shameful and torn up for progress .

    sweat equity is what built this town (downtown)

    peace to you and yours and thank you for letting me rant.

  7. Ed B, I’m even more skeptical of the political system. Mine is more like bridled pessimism. I don’t want to appear too cynical, but I have lived somehat longer than you. I also hold out some hope for the human race. Not much, but some. I guess the middle way is best, as someone taught.

    @Rick, this is the what this country needs to do. If we don’t we’re screwed for good. You have said it well.

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