A Critique of President Trump's Inaugural Ceremony

January 20, 2017

Our Constitution was mentioned only once (during administering of the oath of office). Nothing about its precious rights, or constitutional limits on government. Perhaps he will rule by royal decree and proclamation, favoring special interests and the moneyed elite. His nationalistic words were heavy with Tea Party patriotism: “From this day forward it will be America first!” I am old enough to hear echoes of “Deutschland über alles!” Am I again hearing shallow, insidious fascism? He said, “We will be unstoppable!” I wondered, how will we be unstoppable? We do not live in a war machine or industrial dynamo. We are not a people desiring to be the richest and most powerful on our planet. “We will build roads and bridges all across our land!” No advocacy for preservation of natural wild places. His support for drilling was conspicuous by its omission from the speech. No hints of partnership with other peoples of the world. No respect extended to the family of nations. No ideas of global cooperation, harmonious coexistence, or human development.

This was a traditionally pretentious inauguration ceremony, with awkward, cautious blending of church and state. Use of bibles and the phrase “under God.” Jefferson would not have approved of the many invocations, biblical references, blessings, and prayer by clerics claiming a connection with the Divine. Spectators, heads solemnly bowed, wished for umbrellas.

He proclaimed a national day of patriotism. Would this be a time to quietly reflect on democratic principles and rights enshrined in our Constitution— the bedrock of democracy? Or would this day trump Independence Day, Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, and Patriot’s Day? And how shall we participate in Donald Trump Day? Shall we wave little plastic taxpayer-funded American flags? Shall we mimic his grudging, faux salute? Will we be unAmerican if we boycott or ignore the day? During singing of “America the beautiful,” our president swigged bottled water, Rubio-like. He fidgeted, glanced around impatiently, picked lint from his Trump suitjacket, rolled his eyes, and scowled. In another place.

For an hour following his speech, 200 troops in dress uniform were held at attention outside on the capitol steps in cold rain while he schmoozed comfortably inside. This smacked of showy spectacles of military dictatorships, pure royal pageantry, and selfish indifference. A good leader would have dismissed the troops to shelter.

Disturbed by our new president’s lack of character, I felt a cold anxiety, uneasiness, and uncertainty. Should youth emulate his egotistical, unkind, reactive, brash, disrespectful, and reckless behavior? What are his values and ethics? Where is his virtue and humanity?

—Will Walsh  ©2017