An Atheist walks to the Inauguration of the 44th President of the United States

 

By: Jeff Wismer

 

After reflecting back on the Inauguration weekend that was, and re-watching the DVR’d CNN coverage, I can now put words on paper.

 

Truly I was not in the best of health when the day itself was upon me.  I knew that the past week in which I had suffered through the worst Sinus Infection of my life, that the weekend in which I had planned for at least one solid month for, was going to be difficult to finish.  I had looked forward to this weekend ever since that election night @ 11:00 pm EST when the four of us had listened to John Stewart say that Barack Obama was the next President-Elect of the United States.  In retrospect it was the fact I was not feeling well that made the weekend both challenging and wonderful at the same time.  I even had to abstain from alcohol the entire weekend just to make it practical enough to stay healthy enough to attend the Inauguration.  The feeling the night before was NOT gitty anticipation, but one of somber realization that I was almost over the whole spectacle, especially the bullshit security the three of us encountered during the “We are One” on Sunday.  I knew I was going to be getting up late, and therefore I knew I would walk to the Inauguration alone the next morning.

 

The morning came, and I was pleased to see that the sun was out, and therefore I had a good chance of lasting long enough outside, b/c if the forecast had played out the way the experts had said it would, cloudy and windy and cold, and may have not ventured outdoors at all.  I quickly set the DVR to record the CNN coverage, and then hurriedly took a shower and headed out to the Inauguration.  My route was going to take me first past the Iwo Jima Memorial.   The thoughts in my head at the time was the view that I had from Iwo Jima Memorial looking out at the National Mall.  I also thought of my friend Joe, a former Marine, who is back in the Middle East, and how the new administration would affect his efforts overseas.  Then I passed by people camped out near The Netherlands Carillon Bell Tower who were using a wind up high wave radio coverage of the Inauguration.  I thought of how the new administration was going to change the way foreigners and environmentally conscience people thought of the United States.

 

My next tack was through the Arlington Cemetery which immediately gave me a unique perspective of those who have died fighting for this Nation.  I also thought of my deceased uncle Jeffrey (of whom I am named after) who died of Leukemia when he was only five years old, and who inexorably changed the fate of my family.  If Jeffrey were still alive he would have witnessed this historical day.  I thought of all the others who lay in their graves and how they all would have wanted to be alive today.  Eventually I passed by some more memorials which showed valor in the line of duty, and one in particular that tells of the bravery and servitude of marines reaching out to the children of World War II that were effected by our involvement.  Of course I also think of all the atheist/agnostic men & women that died fighting for our nation, and the stupidity of the phrase “there are no atheists in foxholes”.  What they wouldn’t give to still be alive on this momentous occasion. 

 

Booking now as I pass by the National Guard heading over the bridge, now feeling some gitty anticipation has I hear the announcements over the loud speakers on the mall.  To my right down the Potomac River I see the Jefferson Memorial lit up like a white pearl in the sunlit skyline.  I think of the wall of separation, the Jefferson bible, the Louisiana Purchase, and my favorite American Story of Lewis & Clark.   OH the Joy!   Thomas Jefferson’s secularization of this nation coming to fruition on this day, and ironic b/c Jefferson owned slaves.  The Lincoln Memorial is right ahead of me, and I think of Lincoln’s triumph over slavery and price that was paid @ Gettysburg…my favorite war of American history.  Lincoln was also a deist much like Jefferson, and was once accused of being an atheist while running for congress in Illinois.  I arrive at the Lincoln Memorial and begin my track up to the Capitol Building stopping at the WWII Memorial and the Washington Monument along the way. 

 

I remember the spectacle of it all, and I remember the beauty of the music, in particular to the “Air and Simple Gifts”…which made me tear up quite extensively.   I remember passing by some Xian nutters preaching about the end of the world, and me shouting back at them to “shut the hell up”.  I remember how cold it got after the sun got clouded over, and I remember the terrible sinus headache and all the sinus pills I took along with the fries and coke I bought.  I remember the Calendar I bought for five dollars to remember the occasion, and I remember the conversation I had with the Black woman from Ohio in the cab on the ride back to Rosslyn.  She was hoping for a better year, and I wanted to aide her on her way by a small act of kindness by kissing her on the cheek and paying for her cab fare.  WE HOPE…and I remember the line from one of my favorite movies of all time Shawshank Redemption “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best thing, and no good thing ever dies”.