It’s Inauguration Day here in the United States, and even though I worked graveyard shift last night, which means the ceremonies felt like they were being held at the equivalent of my three o’clock in the morning, I watched them. And I got an amazing thrill from the event. Not just because my guy won. (Yay!)
I can say with all sincerity that I’ve gotten goose bumps from every single inauguration I’ve witnessed, regardless of whether the man who was being sworn in as president was the person I voted for. As I looked out at the hundreds of thousands of people who were willing to attend this event (despite the fact that it’s always held in an often brutally cold Washington DC January), I realized that they are bearing witness to history, and one in which we can all, on this day if not on any other, take pride.
During every inauguration, I’m reminded of the words of George Washington during the First Inaugural Address in 1789: “The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered deeply, perhaps as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”
And it’s true. This nation, this political process of ours, is an experiment. My saying that once got me blasted by one of my relatives. He thought what I was saying was unpatriotic. How dare I say this is an experiment? Well, I say it easily and with pride, thank you very much, because anyone with even the slightest knowledge of world history knows that governments rise and fall and political philosophies come and go. Just ask the people of ancient Rome. The fact that we are lucky enough to be at a point in time when our particular experiment seems to be working quite well is a reason for celebration. And saying it’s an experiment is the most patriotic thing in the world because it reminds us that this stability is fragile, and it needs to be monitored and cared for and debated about with the free speech afforded us by our constitution. What could possibly be more patriotic than that?
Indeed, my love of free speech was sorely tested a few days ago. A very heated political debate broke out on a friend’s Facebook page. I sat back and watched it with interest and enjoyment, at first. Then, as often happens when people don’t have a strong dog in a fight, it deteriorated into name calling and personal attacks. That made me sad, because rather than strengthening their views in my eyes, it simply made me think much less of both parties. So I was thrilled today when President Obama said, “We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.” You tell ‘em, Barack. We don’t have to agree. But if you let it deteriorate into insults, you’re only revealing your ignorance, because, you see, this is not about him. It’s about us.
That Facebook brawl ended abruptly when one person said, “He’s not my president!” Poor deluded woman. If you’re an American, yes he is. Even if you didn’t vote for him, even if you didn’t bother to vote at all, yes he is. And you should thank your lucky stars that he is. We have held a stable government without a violent overthrow since George Washington made that first inaugural address in 1789. Yes, we’ve had a civil war. Yes, there have been assassinations and assassination attempts and threats from other nations, but through it all, we have remained solid. Millions of people on this planet have not experienced that stability, and can’t even imagine what it must be like. So, yes, he’s your president, love him or hate him, and that fact was celebrated today on a cold, windy patch of ground in our nation’s capital. How cool is that?