Inauguration or Coronation?
The inauguration festivities seem to be particularly “big” this time around. Wonder why? It seems much more like a coronation than an inauguration (I know, this will probably be taken as me being just another cranky-con. Oh well). Anyway, Michael Drout, Professor of English and Chair of the English Department at Wheaton College (I don’t know his politics), offers an illustrative recounting of a conversation he had in his faculty lounge:
Background: Wheaton has arranged for a sophomore January experience. Sophomores come two days early and do some stuff. This happens to be on the day of the inauguration, so the planners decided that all the sophomores could be brought to the field house where they would watch the ceremony on a giant screen.
Drout: (as tactful and politically savvy as I always am): I’m just glad I never had to participate in such a creepy experience when I was in college.
X: (confused): Why would you call it creepy?
Drout: You are rounding up a large group of people and forcing them to watch political theater. On a giant screen. In a gymnasium.
[Long pause while people look uncomfortable.] Drout: It never occurred to any of you who planned this that it was the slightest bit creepy, did it?
X: The way you describe it makes it sound creepy. It is a major event that most people will want to watch.
Drout: Couldn’t they watch it without being herded together into a gymnasium? Maybe hang out with their friends, watch it on the various lounge TVs? Make comments?
X: But then there wouldn’t be the bonding experience.
Drout: Bonding over a political spectacle is, in your view, a good thing?
[another uncomfortable pause] X: Maybe you should be one of the faculty members afterwards who can give talks to contextualize the event. You could analyze the rhetoric.
Drout: I’m pretty sure I don’t want the students to see me as part of the creepy event.
X: But you’d have a chance to express your point of view.
Drout: But you’ve got my entire point of view. I think it’s creepy.
X: (Gives up in exasperation).
Look, I do GET it. I really do believe that this is a significant moment in our nation’s history. Yet, the 24/7 coverage of the week long celebration…I don’t remember this happening before. Is it just because we, as entertainment/news consumers, are getting more demanding (or the suppliers of the aforementioned more aggressive?) when it comes to our politics-meet-entertainment appetite? I know there is a need to fill programming time–and what better way than covering inauguration festivities (plus, it’s relatively cheap). To say nothing of the MSMs love for Obama.
I’m sure there are several factors that go into this. The coincidence of the inauguration of the nation’s first black President with our annual commemoration of our country’s greatest civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has certainly, and correctly, heightened the emotions this time around. But the idea that we as a nation need to “bond” over the inauguration of a new political leader? It all seems just a little overboard. And creepy.