C’mon, admit it: you experienced the Kleenex helpful although you watched the swearing-in of the 46th president with all of the attendant ruffles and thrives.
I absolutely did. I doubt that any other presidential inauguration in any of our lifetimes has been as crammed with the perception of answered prayer. And never ever before because the depths of the Wonderful Melancholy and the 2nd Environment War has so a lot inauguration-connected emotion been suffused with the encounter of struggling. The grief we truly feel on January 20 flows not just from Covid’s awful toll but also from our anguish over the obvious fragility of American democracy and our nation’s ever-worsening structural injustices—appalling inequities that are too generally euphemized as “disparities.”
I want to emphasis on struggling and the religious dimension. Just as troopers when insisted that no one particular is an atheist in a foxhole, so as well ended up there loads of non-spiritual inauguration watchers who certainly felt some of the religious body weight in today’s ceremony.
There ended up a great deal of good reasons for feeling that weight even though watching the pageantry unfold. There’s the symbolism, of course: all those people flags and bunting and glistening marble. And along with the symbols there’s continuity: the exact same oath currently being sworn by all U.S. presidents on the exact same day and at the exact time, with the Marine Band taking part in some of the similar “airs” it performed for Thomas Jefferson in 1800.
Compared to royal coronations, American inaugurations are remarkably simple affairs. But our ceremonies keep their own majesty and are capable of projecting a potent sense that a thing sacred is happening.
Our inaugurations have normally mirrored a mashup of civil religion—invocations of our secular sacred texts, appeals to mystic chords of national memory—and bits of bare Christian expression. Completely secular democracies rightly dispense with issues like invocations and benedictions no arms are put on Christian Bibles. Those who wince at these sectarian moments are right to wince, I assume. And although Garth Brooks, a Republican, proved to be a gracious presence now, I dearly would like to see all explicitly Christian hymns (“Amazing Grace” incorporated) retired from general public functions.
But leaving the Christian bits apart, the other and far far more crucial civil religion elements—the oath-using, the flags and bunting, the wonderful band—seem to me indispensable. Retaining the correct placing at the Capitol’s West Front was specially indispensable this year because of what occurred on January 6. In a pretty real and palpable sense, today’s ceremony amounted to the reconsecration of a sacred place that was profaned and defiled just two months ago—defiled not just by the rioters coming from outdoors but also by the 147 traitors within the Capitol who violated their individual oaths when they voted from the certification of a reputable democratic election.
That this marble shrine to liberty and democracy was built by enslaved individuals and then polluted yet again and again by manifestations of an unappealing white supremacy can take almost nothing absent from the other moments when, we may possibly say, the glory of the Lord was current there: e.g., when the likes of Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt summoned our improved angels, when the Reconstruction Amendments were drafted, and when the caskets of Rosa Parks and John Lewis lay in point out beneath the soaring dome.
And again today, in a ceremony marked by the two mourning and modesty a ceremony in which white supremacy was explicitly repudiated various moments, in which a dazzling younger African-American poet set lots of hearts aflutter, and in which an extraordinary Black and Asian female (with a Jewish spouse to boot!) was sworn into the 2nd-best workplace in the land.
And Joe Biden? Our new president will under no circumstances be eloquent, but these days he confirmed us his coronary heart. And I would say that his simply call for a second of silence in honor of the Covid lifeless had an eloquence all its own.
Entirely a fitting starting. The Latin root of “inauguration” harks back again to Roman periods and suggests “to consecrate by augury.” I’d say that today’s occasion augurs properly for a new birth of decency. What we require is revolution, of training course. But these days I will settle for decency.