Words amuse me. They describe and explicate, they illumine and obfuscate at the same time, they dance at the edges of our perceptions and linger in our ears and slide away from our tongues and memories. They are shy, devilish creatures and I love them, as they are a reflection of ourselves.
While speaking of yesterday’s events, I was reminded of our past as well as our future. I sat for about an hour yesterday, listening to the prayers of two men, the oaths of two others, the artful voices of two women, and the combined music of a skilled quartet. For me, the event was moving not only because I believe the speech of one man and his ability to help better our world, but also because the entire ceremony was couched in the language of a faith I share. If I were a Muslim or a Jew, I think the ceremony would have meant less to me. If I were a Hindu or a Buddhist or a non beleiver, I feel I would have missed something of the connection I felt to the event. And while I do not begrudge anyone their own faith, it is sad to me that something I see as exciting and wonderous cannot always be shared with others. What I feel is not always meaningful to the world.
The definition of the word ‘inaugurate’, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, is “to induct into office by a formal ceremony”. It seems simple enough. By this definition, even the induction of a Boy Scout troop leader is an inaugeration. But the word coems from Latin, from roots involving the word ‘augur’, or foretelling. It means literally ‘to consecrate by augury’. In the past, those called augers were officials with a specific civic duty – to divine omens for the public, so that the future of the state could be secured through these predictions. These officials were guides, directors to general public life, attempting to keep public interest aligned with the wishes and dictates of the gods.
It is interesting, then, that our new president sees himself as just such a guide. It is interesting that in everything he does he calls on the American people for support, direction, strength, and duty. It is interesting that he sees himself more as a guide to the people, a shepherd as the prophets of old, a warning from God to the people to mend their ways. It is interesting to see, couched in the language of a far more recent orthodoxy, that same bent of prognostication and new, corrected direction for the country. I look forward to observing just which omens might come true – whether an adulthood for our young nation, or a return to some other, former state.