Trump has ruined our inauguration celebration
It used to be that the people of the United States looked at presidential inaugurations with a sense of pride. But like just about everything else he touches, Donald Trump has broken that, too.
Even if your candidate lost, you knew the inauguration was momentous — the views of the buildings in Washington, D.C., the swearing-in by the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, the oath of office on the Capitol steps, the proud family members and dignitaries watching, the inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, the glittering balls that evening. The peaceful transfer of power is a key reminder of our democracy. It was always a powerful moment that unified the country, even if you disagreed with who was taking power.
Instead, the nation will hold its collective breath and pray that no one gets killed.
There was no question that the inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden would need to be scaled back because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Whose fault is it that the novel coronavirus is out of control? Trump’s, because he downplayed and ignored its seriousness and gave up doing anything about it months ago.) Instead of welcoming a huge crowd to witness the event, the Presidential Inaugural Committee requested that people watch virtually, either online or on TV. But you couldn’t come if you wanted to; the entire National Mall is closed to the public for several days leading up to Inauguration Day.
There’s no surprise behind that decision by the National Park Service. The deadly Jan. 6 riot by Trump-supporting domestic terrorists who were incited by Trump’s lies about the election outcome and who tried to take over the Capitol in a (thankfully) failed coup attempt has caused everything to go on lockdown in our nation’s capital. “There are fears that violent pro-Trump mobs that stormed the US Capitol will return — and concern for the safety of Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and other dignitaries at the open-air ceremony,” said an analysis by The Washington Post. “When the world watches on Wednesday, it will take away a tragic truth: Two great icons of US democracy, the Capitol and the White House, must now be sealed inside a vast cage to protect them from the people they serve.”
Security officials from the FBI, the Secret Service, and area police are reporting continued threats on Washington and capitals of all 50 states from the same white supremacist, neo-Nazi, and right-wing groups who laid siege to the Capitol. Biden had been planning to take an Amtrak train from Delaware to Washington, as he did during his Senate career, but ongoing threats meant those plans had to be scrapped. There have not been as many security concerns about an inauguration since the 1861 swearing-in of Abraham Lincoln, where there were “endless reports of plots to kidnap or kill him,” according to a story in The Washington Post. It’s probably wise for Biden not to take the train; a bomb was planted on the train that carried Lincoln from Illinois.
So instead of watching in person, plan to tune in for several events leading up to Inauguration Day. There will be a virtual inaugural concert Sunday evening, hosted by Keegan-Michael Key and Debra Messing. Monday is a “United We Serve” National Day of Service; look for some way to help in your own community. There will be a National COVID-19 Memorial on Tuesday in honor of all the lives lost to COVID-19, which now are approaching 400,000. There will be a ceremony in Washington at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, and churches around the country are asked to ring bells simultaneously at 5:30 p.m. Eastern.
On Jan. 20, Biden will take the oath of office as outlined in the U.S. Constitution (the ignorance of Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville notwithstanding, who somehow thought it could be postponed until “after we got this virus behind us a little bit”). He and the new vice president, Kamala Harris, will take part in the military tradition of a “pass in review” to symbolize the peaceful transfer of power. Then Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, Harris, and Douglas Emhoff (the “second gentleman”), will be joined by former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush, and former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to lay a wreath at Arlington National Ceremony.
(Donald Trump won’t be joining that list of dignitaries; he’s expected to fly the coop that morning and will not attend the inauguration. No one wants him there anyway.)
A virtual “Parade Across America” will follow, featuring diverse performances in communities across the country. Wednesday evening, actor Tom Hanks will host a “Celebrating America” prime-time special with performers such as Justin Timberlake, Demi Lovato, Ant Clemons, and Bon Jovi.
All of the official events can be found at the Biden Inaugural website.