The crowd that descended on Capitol Hill to witness the swearing in of the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump seemed sparse in comparison to the turnout in 2009 for the outgoing president, Barack Obama. But for Trump and his sea of supporters, this was a victory nonetheless. On the inaugural platform, in the spirit of democracy, Obama and Trump seemingly put aside their party politics and greeted each other with pleasantries and for that moment at least, the whole of Capitol Hill remained calm and oblivious to the acts of vandalism and revolt from anti-Trump protesters that engulfed much of Washington. In that sense the various choirs that participated in the inaugural ceremony such as the Missouri State University Chorale with their beatific voices helped to drown out the deafening sounds of dissension that has beome the defining anthem for much of Donald Trump’s political campaign. Unlike the voices that commanded a sense of stillness and tranquility to the proceedings, Trump and his administration will now take on a fractured and divisive country in the most turbulent period of America’s history.
The inaugural address, lasting the duration of twenty minutes recaptured earlier themes of nationalism, protectionism and the patriotism of the American people while delivering a verbal assault on the Establishment that has dominated Washington, reminding us that “Today we are not merely transferring power from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington DC and giving it back to you, the people”. Does this transferring of power include the segments of society like women and the disabled that were often denigrated and made to feel powerless, or should we now cast all of Trump’s previous statements in to a box and file it away under “locker room talk?”
The tone and delivery of his inaugural address appeared intentionally devoid of all the ambiguous language that is commonplace amongst previous presidents. Trump seemed to dispose of the political prose in favour of straight talking in a dialect aimed at reaching all America. Though his lack of prowess on the podium of politics has become an indictment of being unqualified for the newly assumed position, in time it may prove an aid in pointing out the dissimilarities between his government and the Establishment he hopes to topple. The address was very heavy on promises, without the slightest indication on how he was to deliver on them, and on numerous occasions, the new president resorted to his default campaign catchphrases such as putting “America First”. I suppose just how he plans to implement his policies will become much clearer in the days and weeks that follow. Hopefully, statements referencing “the crime, and the gangs, and the drugs that have stolen so many lives” will not just be reduced to clever soundbites, but instead we will begin to see the ways he seeks to combat these issues. Often the address took a more socialist slant with an eloquence similar to that of his predecessor suggesting that “whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky and they are infused with the same breath of life by the Almighty creator. At this juncture it is difficult to discern whether this reimagined utopia Trump speaks of is just mere hyper-patriotism keeping with the traditions of the inaugural address dating as far back as 1789 in Washington’s own address.
There is undoubtedly an air of uncertainty when considering what shape a presidency under Trump will take. Perhaps this was communicated early in the inaugural ceremony when the Missouri senator Roy Blunt recited a letter from Major Sullivan Ballou addressed to his wife, Sarah. Written in 1861, the letter speaks of Sullivan’s resolve in the heart of battle. Certainly Blunt referenced this letter, hoping to stoke the fires of patriotism and nationalism lying dormant in the citizens of America but the line that unintentionally seems to capture the shared sentiments for those in America and elsewhere with a heartfelt poignancy is: “Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure – and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me”…