By Edith Morgan
President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration promises to be one we will not soon forget: It takes place amid the continuing spike in the contagion of the COVID 19 epidemic, so there will not be great discussions about the size of the crowd. (there will not BE a crowd!!) There will be no unusual and memorable events to fix this one in our hearts and heads.
At my age (90 years old), I have seen many such events, every four years, since I came to America when FDR was President! I really do not recall anything about the events of 1944, as I was just getting acclimated to this country, and scarcely aware of national politics. And, of course, there was no TV and no other mass media, and telephones were rather rudimentary.
The Presidential inauguration ceremonies and parades that stick in my mind were JFK’s and, of course the 2016 one. JFK’s sticks in my memory because the weather was cold and icy and the newspapers reported there was a heater beneath the podium. And when Robert Frost read a poem of his, the podium caught fire! We were watching the TV with some friends from New Zealaind, who commented that our ceremonies were so quaint! They felt we really needed a King and Queen to carry out these ceremonies properly!
The next inauguration I remember vividly was the one which gave us our first Black President, Barrack Obama, and the approach to the Capitol was packed as full as possible. Four years later, when Trump was inaugurated, there were many fewer people assembled there, but Trump claimed, despite the obvious difference we all saw in the newsreels on TV, that it was the BIGGEST crowd ever!!! Those lies continued for the next four years. But the evidence is still there despite the exhortations to ignore our eyes and “follow our leader.”
In the past, people of all walks of life were at our inaugurations – packed together like sardines but quiet and orderly and happy! This year, there will be tens of thousands of armed police and national guard troops, guarding the approaches to the site, as well as physical barriers of cement, barbed wire and fencing and hovering helicopters and government snipers. And I suppose all kinds of surveillance equipment.
I noticed that in the past, at the ceremonies, there were whole families assembled: children in baby carriages, others sitting on their fathers’ shoulders, couples, old people – all knowing they were participating in a historical event. To see but not to be seen … It was the age before “selfies” and the incessant ego trips which are so common now.
I remember our various First Families strolling down Pennsylvania Avenue, with crowds lining both sides of the street, waving flags and cheering. Now, that will not happen because of the virus, but mostly because it would be too dangerous.
And, as for the speeches, I have to admit that I remember little of what was said! I was really much more intent on seeing all the people: America, our country, proudly honoring our Constitution. Lovingly following her democratic traditions …
The global pandemic has changed the way we will celebrate tomorrow …