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The Inauguration of George W. Bush: 
Two different views 
of a national event

Back again to DC to protest Bush not fairly elected.
by Bonner McAllester
February 2005
I've been to Washington again, this time to protest the inauguration of President George W. Bush.  I don't believe he was fairly elected this time any more than in 2000, but even if he had been I would be standing with others to show how deeply I disapprove of his policies, foreign and domestic.

This is the fourth time I've taken the midnight bus to D.C. since this president took office.  There is a certain similarity to these experiences: the cramped ride down with other protesters, talking politics and peace, sharing snacks and songs.  Each person has a strategy involving water bottle, sandwich, clothing, and signs. 

This time some of us wore white armbands to signify mourning for those killed in Iraq.  Washington can be wicked cold in the early January morning, before the sun hits the streets.  We had snow in the air this time, and something else, too.

This time, the actual object of our ire would be present.  He would not be in Mexico or at Camp David, but driving by in a motorcade.  We planned to line Pennsylvania Avenue and then turn our backs as he went by. 

After a few hours of marching and singing and waiting at a checkpoint, the moment arrived.  I couldn't see a thing except the backsides of thousands of other protesters, but then this incredible roar rose up from everyone and they turned around.  (I was now looking at their frontsides.)  So I figured the limousine was out there somewhere and I turned my back to it, too.

Many long miles and hours later we got home, all tired out, our sandwiches eaten and our signs a little rumpled.  People started asking me right away: What was it like?  When you turned your back, do you think anyone noticed? 

What a question!  I went because I knew someone would notice: me.  «««

(The above letter was published in the February 2005 issue of the Monterey News newspaper. It is reproduced here without permission.)

An exhilarating event
McAllester: Sour grapes because her candidate lost.
by G.M. Heller
March 2005
Back from Washington and all self-righteous and sour-grapes, Bonner McAllester is angry because her candidate didn't win.  She's in denial when she says she doesn't believe George W. Bush "was fairly elected this time any more than in 2000" (and of course, she fails to provide any clues to inform us just how she comes to this ridiculous conclusion). 

Describing her "cramped" midnight bus ride to Washington with other anti-Bush activists, she details her self-styled "protest" at the Inaugural Parade, and bemoans the fact that when it was time for her big moment to remonstrate against the passing election winner, she "couldn't see a thing except the backsides of thousands of other protesters."

Perhaps if Ms.McAllester were to set her sites higher than the backsides of other angry people, she might better understand why Mr. Bush carried both electoral and popular vote this time, and more importantly, why he and the Republicans won hands-down in the national arena of ideas. 

From the sound of Ms.McAllester's bitter rant, one would also think a visit to the nation's capital during the latest climax of the four-year presidential election cycle was something to dread rather than to  celebrate. 

My own experience on Inaugural Thursday was far different than Ms.McAllester's.  The swearing-in was exhilarating -- an event giving insight into American history; and immediately following the ceremony were receptions, celebrations, and some good old-fashioned partying.

This may sound corny to the sophisticated effetes in this bluest county in the bluest of states, but it was damn refreshing to witness history -- and especially to witness in person this President taking the Oath.

The morning began overcast and chilly at 27 degrees.  When I arrived at 10AM, the air was warmer, but the sky was still overcast and a dank gray.  My seat was just left of center with an unobstructed view (not 175 feet from the rostrum) of the Presidential Seal and the spot where George W. was to be sworn.  (It was easy to procure what the media said were ‘scarce' tickets.  Literally the day before, I simply walked into my Congressman's office and asked his staff whether any tickets remained in his allotment.)

To my left sat a middle-aged husband and wife from York, PA (about three hours north of DC).  To my right were two former college buddies, one now lived in Lynchburg, VA while the other had flown in for the event from central Illinois.  The Lynchburg guy had driven five hours.  Behind me sat three middle-aged women from Michigan whose coats bore big yellow buttons supporting John Kerry.  They said they were quite proud of Mr. Kerry and that they were all there as Americans to share the history of the moment. 

About twenty minutes before the noontime oath-taking, a welcome Sun broke through clearing sky.  It remained bright and cheery throughout the duration of the ceremony.  I never found out whether TV commentators made note of Sol's blazing noontime appearance, but to me it immediately held wonderful significance and gave special moment to the occasion, more so than the event already had.

The Sun this day not only warmed, it gave blessing upon the entirety of the proceedings unfolding below.  The country was watching and simultaneously going through this quadrennial political ritual, and it was as if the Sun was giving its imprimatur.  In that single moment, the historical magnificence and uniqueness of this whole American 'thing' came into perspective, at least for this observer.

Afterwards, as all federal officialdom emptied the upper stands and the band filed out and folks were leaving the section where I sat, I hung out a bit watching people pass by.  Then, rather than going over to the overcrowded parade route to wait around for a fleeting glimpse of a moving limo with 2-inch thick tinted glass, I chose instead the party option.  I had heard that Members of Congress were having open houses and that these were the places to be after the ceremony. 

Did I say there was food?  Contrasted with Ms.McAllester's starvation rations of her one sandwich with bottled water, any Washington Inauguration becomes  a movable feast courtesy of your local Congressional campaign committee no matter where you're from.  All-you-could-eat buffet platters stocked with cold cuts, cheeses, sandwiches, salad fixings, shrimp cocktail, pastries, fruit, fresh-baked cookies, and refreshments were all free for any hungry mouth -- Democrat, Republican, or Independent -- willing to come in and just say hi. 

MOC's, their wives and families, staffs, and constituents and their families from all over the country converged this day within the halls of the House and Senate Office Buildings.  There were funny stories, flesh pressing, and a whopping good time.  I pigged out.  In one MOC's office, I polished-off at least a pound of shrimp before attacking cold-cut sandwiches and finally, of course, the chocolate-chip cookies. 

I didn't come across Ms.McAllester amongst this famished throng (though I caught a glimpse of a few T-shirts emblazoned with a variety of protest slogans), but she and her angry comrades would certainly have been welcomed had they just shown-up to partake of the feast.  The atmosphere these open houses engendered reminded me of the good humor and exuberance at the annual Berkshire Botanical Garden 'Harvest Festival.' It was that kind of crowd, except these party goers, far away from home, were augmenting their good cheer with a never-to-be-forgotten living history lesson. 

The people I saw in those Capitol Hill buildings that Thursday afternoon did not appear angry nor bitter nor depressed nor victimized. At that point, they were just Americans having a real hoot of a good time. My guess is that that innate American optimism is what will carry us and this President forward through the next four years. «««

[Here is my Official Inaugural Invitation and Seat Ticket.]

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