When my family moved to Macon, Ga., nine years ago, a friend who had spent several years here told me: “It is everything right about the South and everything wrong about the South.”

The same, I’m sure, could be said about other places. But I’ve found that analysis to be true.

On one hand there are beautiful Antebellum homes and an almost-syruppy friendliness. Churches dot every corner — and a surprising number of residents actually attend them. On the other hand, there is deep racial division and social elitism that play out in education, politics and other arenas of shared community.

So it is more saddening than surprising to read that not all public school children here will watch the inauguration of President Barack Obama today. According to an article in The Macon Telegraph, Bibb County Schools leaders are asking principals to set aside designated space for students whose parents object to their viewing of the inauguration.

My mind rushed back to childhood days at Boynton Elementary School on old State Highway 2 between Ft. Oglethorpe and Ringgold, Ga. The black-and-white televisions atop tall rolling stands sat idle in the classroom corners until some event of national significance warranted viewing.

The space program — liftoffs and landings — was a favorite. Most memorable was the time we were rushed in from the playground to find the television blaring the news that President Kennedy had been shot.

Then, every four years, we would watch “our” U.S. President being sworn into office — regardless of his political party or persuasion.

Yet on this epic day in 2009, not everyone can shed their political ideologies (or racial attitudes, if we are more honest) and witness a significant historic event. It shows that we have come a long way — but nowhere near the end of a journey toward the very equality guaranteed in our nation’s founding documents.

Those sequestered by ignorance today will be but a few — I pray. Meanwhile, the more hardened politicos understand what Bubba Q. Public does not — that this is a day for national unity, not political debate and division.

A conservative Supreme Court chief justice — appointed by a conservative Republican president — will administer the oath of office. The outgoing vice president — the ideological opposite of the new president — will be there despite an aching back from moving books into his home office.

One does not have to be giddy to show respect — if not for the person, for the office, for a day.

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