Thursday, January 21, 2021

Notes on an Inauguration Day

Yesterday was a day of highs and lows, as I expected, although the lows were brief.  As I was about to leave for work, I realized that Trump was about to leave the White House, so I turned on the TV.  Sure enough, there was the helicopter, waiting to take Trump away from D.C., away from the Inauguration, which he had decided not to attend.  I waited, watching, while the helicopter rose.  Some of the camera shots were amazing, including one of the helicopter and the edge of the Capitol building.

Throughout the day, I would feel weepy as I saw footage of D.C.  How I love that city!  Throughout the first 45 years of my life, my path wound back there:  we made annual pilgrimages there for my dad's reserve service week-ends and weeks, we lived near there and made trips there for cultural enrichment and to see family friends, and my parents moved to the Virginia suburbs when I was in college and lived there for the next 25 years.  I spent college summers doing social service work in the less desirable parts of the city, back when the city had the highest murder rate in the country.  We almost always went into the city when I came back as a grown up to visit my parents.

As I drove to work yesterday morning, Trump arrived at Joint Base Andrews and said his final remarks.  I was amazed when he said, "Honey, would you like to say a few words?"  I was stunned--both that he used a term of endearment that I've never heard come from his mouth before, not to his wife, not to anyone, and also because he shared the stage.

I got to my office and did some of the work of the day that had to be done.  I zipped over to Office Depot to pick up the spiral bound self-studies that needed to be in the mail by the end of the day--our Vet Tech program is having a site visit in March, and those documents need to be received by accreditors by Jan. 27.  I answered e-mails and re-set a password so that I could access the fingerprint checks for our incoming students.  I did some troubleshooting with a program chair.

In short, even though it was a momentous day, we still had work to do.  Just before I shifted my attention to the Inauguration, I made this Facebook post:  "As one administration shifts to another administration, we do the work that must be done, no matter who is in power: we shepherd the students, we write the e-mails, we get the accreditation documents ready to go, we donate to the food pantries, we check up on the people who need us, we meet the deadlines, we do the work."

At about 10:30, I got a phone call from a colleague who said, "Where are you, Dr. K?  You're missing it all!"  So I went to her office and realized that people were arriving for the inauguration (capitalize this word?  can't decide).  I watched a bit, thinking I would come back closer to time for swearing in--but I didn't want to miss the swearing in of the first woman to achieve such high office--sure, it's not the presidency, but I'll take this crumb!

At some point, one of us suggested we move to the conference room, and we did--we had a much bigger monitor, and we could spread out, so it was a good call.  Every so often the live feed would fail, which was frustrating, but we coped.  I had thought I might watch the ceremony alone in my office, but it was so much better to cheer and weep with colleagues.

I loved hearing the national anthem--it moved me more deeply, given the assault on the Capitol just 2 weeks earlier.  I am still just astonished that I'm writing these words.  Four years ago, I was expecting armed assaults, but I imagined that Trump would take the path of other dictators and start foreign wars to solidify support and power.

I loved the swearing in--tears again and again.  I loved Biden's speech.  I realize that he trotted out familiar themes for inauguration day, but what a relief to have a president who understands why these themes of unity are important.  What a relief to have a president who wants to inspire us, not divide us.

I loved the music and the musicians.  I loved that Jennifer Lopez sang "This Land Is Your Land"--a Woody Guthrie song so perfect for the day!  At one point, when Garth Brooks was singing "Amazing Grace," he turned to the camera and said, "At home, sing along."  One of my colleagues murmered, "Are we going to sing?"  And we sang softly together.

I loved the poet, although I found her hand motions distracting.  Will her poem become my favorite?  No--but no inaugural poem so far will be my favorite.  I'm always just happy when a poet is invited to be part--it sends a message that is so important to me.

I even liked the closing prayer, although including prayers in these events makes me queasy.  It's so easy to go wrong.  Yesterday's prayer seemed inclusive to me in a way that other prayers don't.

And then it was time to get back to the work of the day:  back and forth to the UPS store, getting mailing supplies, preparing the mailing, getting to the UPS store to realize I had forgotten the zip code on one of the packages, back to the office, back to the UPS store.  I was fairly exhausted by the end of the day.

I ended the day with my online Mepkin journaling group--we are all of like minds, both politically and spiritually, so it was good to be together, even though I journaled more about the events of the day than the material we were scheduled to discuss/journal.

Late in the day, I made this Facebook post:  

"Earlier today I was trying to remember if I had ever seen an inauguration in school when I was a child. Then I remembered that back then, TVs were huge and expensive and one couldn't put them on rolling carts. It was before the age of VCRs, so one wouldn't tape the inauguration so that students could watch it later and analyze it. And we couldn't stream on our computers--a computer took up a whole room, and you communicated with it by way of punch cards.

Wow, I am old. And wise."

I've spent some time this morning reading blog posts from the early days of the Trump presidency, and I was as clear-eyed as I remember, although I wouldn't have anticipated the mob attacking our own Capitol--at least not in the open, post-a-Selfie way it happened.  I am both relieved that we survived, and anxious that the next time we won't be so lucky.  Trump was fairly ineffectual, and thus, anyone paying attention could learn some valuable lessons about what not to do and what might work.

But for now, let me rest and breathe--and assemble the tools that will be needed to mend this tattered country.

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