Today is the high holy day of our civic religion: Inauguration Day. I heard today that the -real- inauguration actually happened yesterday; which kinda saddens me. There is something touching about seeing the ‘real deal’ swearing in–even when they kinda flub it as happened last time.
That we take the transition of power for granted (enough to doa re-enactment for the cameras) just goes to show how fabulous is our system. I’d go so far as to say that the reliable as clockwork passing of the baton (twofer metaphor!) is -the- ne plus ultra of our nation.
We tend to forget how tenuous and fraught are these things in most other places. Even today. Even in -big- places, they get just a little nervous whenever you go from Guy A to Guy B.
That’s why Washington will always be, for me, our greatest president. By setting a tone for the office, and leaving on schedule, he did more than anyone else to define our government. You can have all the rules and lofty ideals you like, but somebody has to show how the game should be played.
And you have to admire the fact that every president (and his team) have worked their guts out to make sure that every such transition has been carried out -exactly- to the letter of the law. Look how often pretty Machievellian deals have been concocted by members of all three branches in order to ‘save the union’. And yet, when it comes time to step aside, everyone, no matter how sincerely concerned they are that the next in line is a complete numbskull, follows the constitution. Shakes the guy’s hand. Passes the torch with good sportsmanship. Bush v. Gore? Kennedy assassination? Even Nixon… Power transferred with remarkably little fuss. Trust me, the rest of the world marvels at this.
It’s pretty easy to take today for granted as just a ‘formality’…whether you voted for the guy or not. But it’s a big deal. The BIGGEST deal. We don’t see that because we tend to think we’re far more evolved than this–we should be able to handle much higher ideals of civics. Well, the recent unpleasantness shows that we ain’t. A lot of people are angry enough or disengaged enough to cause real damage to the Republic. So today, we should give ourselves a real pat on the back and count our blessings that we live in a place where (almost) no matter how bad things seem, government continues. No irony. Government continues.
Put in one sentence: You’ll be able to tell when the Republic has down the pan when Inauguration Day is -not- uneventful.