Some families have long-standing get-togethers: summer reunions at the shore, grandmother’s birthday bash, even game night every Thursday with pizza and friends.
Some cultures are filled with holy days: Eid al Fitr, Yom Kippur, Easter, Dia de los Muertos.
Some countries are full of pomp and circumstance. The Changing of the Guard outside Buckingham Palace, or the Opening of Parliament. The Birthday of the Monarch or the Jubilee Celebrations. The remembrance of the war dead, or the founding of the nation.
The United States has its traditions, too: Fourth of July (the day we declared independence though it was 5 years and then some before the war was over, and two more to make it official), Thanksgiving, Memorial Day.
Every person resonates with traditions in their own way. Every person has their own stories of the most bizarre iteration, the best time ever, the time it just didn’t happen. Different communities celebrate or observe these events in their own ways, with great variation… but by and large, even those who are not “observant” take note and they become ties that cement society.
In the United States, in over 230 years, we have a tradition of a peaceful, orderly transition between administrations. We pride ourselves on the “ease” with which one government morphs into another. No bloodshed, no shaky weeks after one government is dissolved and another one is forming, no military coup and martial law. Like our annual national holidays, the quadrennial inauguration is as certain as the rise of the sun tomorrow.
But unlike the other holidays, which commemorate things in our past, this one heralds our future. Rather than looking backward shoring up our cultural myth through remembered heroics, inauguration day signals beginnings, possibilities, hopes and dreams. It points the way forward, encouraging and beckoning us to renewed and greater effort on the part of our country, our people.
Today is the day for the inauguration of the forty-fourth president. Today we look toward the future, with confidence, with hope. Today, regardless of personal philosophies or ideologies, we can take comfort in the traditions that tie us all together. Our government, our nation, continues with no interruption, no alteration in the basic structure of our lives.
That is a pretty nifty tradition.