• Daniel Ethan Finneran

Joe Biden's Inauguration

On the afternoon of the twentieth of January, two thousand and twenty-one long years after the birth of God’s Semitic son, Joseph R. Biden Jr.—the long-time senator from the state of Delaware and, more recently, the two-term understudy to Barack Obama—became the forty-sixth president of the United States of America.


In the process of receiving so exalted a title, he was asked to repeat the simple, solemn oath by which, ever since the earliest dawn of our republic, when the glow of uncertainty suffused the vast horizon toward which our young forebears gazed, and anxiety coursed through the veins of a people for whom independence, now finally theirs to keep, was both an unfamiliar pleasure, and a frightening prospect, every president has been sworn into office.


The inauguration of this, the forty-sixth president, was unlike any of the nearly half-hundred by which it was preceded. For one, the spurned incumbent over whom Mr. Biden claimed an electoral victory last fall, the man stripped of the second term of which he felt himself not only fully deserving, but legally entitled, was not present for the affair.


President Trump, wounded by the shame of an inconceivable loss, and, worse, convinced of the chicanery by which so extraordinary an outcome must’ve been effectuated, was absent from the ceremony. This, mind you, is a ceremony—delightfully unique to the conduct of politics in the Western world—during which great powers are transferred, and immortal honors bestowed. With peace, amiability, grace, and—at the very least—a persuasive pretext of good-humor and will, he who’s departure is imminent is expected to welcome a successor to come.


Decorum being to him a sort of distant language in which no fluency’s to be gained, and self-effacement, likewise, a trap of modesty into which he’d never be so incautious as to let himself fall, President Trump avoided the day altogether. After issuing to the nation a refreshingly sober “Farewell Address”, a twenty-minute speech on which, failing a revival of his political aspirations in the year 2024, his official activities as president will end, Mr. Trump left the frigid air of the Federal City, for the balmy breeze of Florida’s east coast.


The Inauguration was unusual in other ways, as well. There was no massive crowd, at least no physical one, before whom Mr. Biden’s great oath was taken. There was no large audience, bundled but buzzing, to whom his remarks would be addressed. He spoke, instead, to a pit of “socially-distanced” friends and a sea of hundreds of thousands of flags—the former, a reminder of the threat of an injudicious touch or a careless embrace and the peril of an intimacy unwisely indulged; the latter, a symbol of the near half-million Americans claimed by the virulence of a foreign disease.


Perhaps strangest of all, the Inauguration—taking place at the Capitol Building, a location upon which, but two weeks ago, a rabble of malcontents unleashed a scene of terrible violence—required the presence of and protection by the American military. Twenty-thousand armed troops, more or less, were instructed to occupy a city in which the heart of liberty is thought to beat. To the viewer at home, through whose fixed television screen or computer monitor, this vaunted ceremony was streamed, their presence went unnoticed. Merit, however, to he who mentions the regrettable truth that the peaceful transfer of power occasionally demands the threat of a rather different type of power.


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