January 21, 2005

Finding the Extremes: Inauguration Day 2005

Self-described independent Baptist at entrance to the Inaugural Parade. The sign on the left said “God Hates America” while the sign on the right said “Thank God for the Tsunami.”

See more of my Inauguration Day photographs.

The area around the parade and Inauguration was cordoned off days before the events. With Inauguration ticket in hand (thanks to my Congressman) I got to the 7th and D Street security checkpoint at 10 am yesterday. Meeting up with my friend Randall, there was already a large crowd chanting “Let us in, let us in…” No one was moving.

Scout volunteers in yellow jackets proved to be our best source of information. They informed us there was a special checkpoint for Inauguration attendees seven blocks east. When we got there we joined well-coiffed Republican women in fur coats and rugged men in overcoats and cowboy hats. Texas accents complained about the cattle stockade conditions as we were funneled into small openings in the security fence.

We were vigorously frisked but there were no metal detectors. No one looked in our bags. Apparently, this wasn’t the case at all checkpoints. Others were being scanned for radioactive material.

The privileged were then divided by their connections. Ironically, the Blue section was the closest to the proceedings followed by the Green, Yellow, Red, and then the rest of us in the Gold section.

There were very few protestors at the Inauguration ceremony. It was a decidedly partisan crowd. As President Bush was sworn in, a lone “Go to hell!” was met with a chorus of angry retorts. Jumbotrons allowed us to read George Bush’s lips as he gave his Inaugural Address. Loud speakers conveyed his thoughts, but there was a few second delay so his mouth was not always in sync with his words.

The most discordant part of the day’s festivities occurred when we moved from the Inaugural to our planter vantage point a few feet above the parade route. As we turned the corner from 3rd Street to Constitution Avenue, protestors with large signs proclaimed “Thank God for the Tsunami” and “Fags are Lawless.” These self-described Independent Baptists pinned Randall and I between two polar extremes: the highly partisan Bush street crowd and these anti-Bush but also severely anti-liberal protestors.

One group failed to understand the gravity of the administration’s actions while the other understood there were repercussions, but in such a convoluted way their concerns bore no resemblance to ours. We silently shared epitaphs with the Republicans but knew we also shared a general scorn of this Administration with these protestors. It was an untenable position where our claustrophobic experience of the crowd mirrored our philosophical quandary of these two moral extremes.

We felt sandwiched by aliens.

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