Op-Ed: The Inauguration, From the Capitol Grounds

Last Wednesday my friend Morgan texted me asking if I could drop my commitments on Friday and jump on a bus with her to Washington D.C. to witness firsthand the historical transition of power to America’s 45th president. It was an opportunity my curiosity could not resist.

Voting this year was incredibly difficult for me and for most of my family and friends. I tried to avoid thinking about the election in general if I could. And, when I was forced to think about it by either an image on the street or a snarky Facebook post, I briefly engaged, keeping all of my political thoughts private and restricted. I forced myself to limit my emotional response. I knew the deep sadness I would face if I allowed myself to dwell on the subject for too long.

While being at President Trump’s inauguration was exciting – I’ve never witnessed history in such close proximity – I experienced a capital charged with a mixture of emotions. Frat boys in red baseball caps and American flag button-downs booed and repeatedly chanted “Trump! Trump! Trump!” when Hillary Clinton or the Obamas appeared on the nearby jumbotron. After the inauguration ceremony, I saw one man push another to the ground, as well as a vulgar poster showing Trump in bed with Vladimir Putin.

Yet, in contrast with all of this, I saw a lady wearing a “Love Trumps Hate” pin. Two girls wearing ‘Make America Great Again’ pins smiled at me as we past on the street. And, I saw an elderly African American couple holding up a sign which read: “Love and best wishes Obamas.”

I think saying ‘Thank you’ is a really good thing.

An elderly woman turned and glared at me when I cheered for Michelle Obama when her name was announced. My knee-jerk reaction was to cheer louder.

Thank you, Michelle. I may not agree with a few of her husband’s policies, but they both cared for people and served my country according to what they thought was best.

Thank you, President Obama, for giving your energy, your thoughts and your time to my beloved country. I respect your graying hair and I know your job was very difficult.

Thank you, Republicans, for seeking to protect individual rights.

Thank you, Democrats, for speaking out against injustice.

Thank you, President Trump and Melania, for willingly giving our country the next four years of your lives. I pray the best for you.

Perhaps I am a little behind the times. I tend to be too much of a romantic to see things realistically. But that day I saw the actions of people who callously demeaned others juxtaposed with soaring expressions of the most wonderful ideals of freedom, love and democracy.

There was one moment during the inauguration ceremony that felt almost sacred. It was during the performance of ‘America the Beautiful.’ The words are all too familiar:

                       Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain,

                       For purple mountains majesties, above the fruited plain,

                       America, America, God shed His grace on thee,

                       And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea

With the caveat that I do not believe that America is a “chosen nation,” a special right belonging only to the descendants of Abraham, I do believe God is sovereign. As my favorite theologian Abraham Kuyper declared, “In the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which the Christ, who alone is sovereign, does not declare, ‘That is mine!’”

I pray for God’s grace over me and my country though I know full well neither deserves it.

Let us continue to wrestle with the issues at hand. I know how safe and easy it is to bury these thoughts away by distraction, I have done that myself many times. We must start small when approaching today's complex dilemmas. 

As Socrates claimed, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” It is a bigger task than one might think, examining your life -- questioning what justice actually is.

I have much to learn but I know God is faithful. He forgives what is wrong and he heals what we break.

Take courage, my friends.