The field of flags , 200,000 of them planted across the Mall, which was silent and otherwise empty was as uplifting as it was sobering. In the silence and the cold, they blew in the breeze as the 46th president was sworn in and the 49th vice president made history.
The words to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” belted out by a pop star with enthusiasm and heart, were gut-wrenching. The tiny flags pinned on so many politicians’ lapels seemed less perfunctory and more like an act of faith. American flags welcomed President Biden and the new first lady to the White House when the outgoing administration did not.
The American flag on this Inauguration Day wasn’t a sign of victory as much as it was an emblem of stubborn endurance. Democracy survived for yet another day. And a generation of Americans must reckon with the uncomfortable realization that a democratic tomorrow is not assured.
“We’ve learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile,” said Biden in his inaugural address. “At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”
In his inaugural address to the nation on Jan. 20, President Biden called for “uniting to fight the foes we face.”
It was a close call for this country and one we won’t soon forget. The civic unrest of 2020, ignited by calls for racial justice, mutated into mobs storming the U.S. Capitol only two weeks ago, fueled by a desire to subvert the Constitution. Rioters broke out windows and vandalized historic rooms, all while cowering behind the American flag. And while the glass can be replaced, the vandalism scrubbed away, the country’s citizens bear the scars of anger and fear, suspicion and cynicism.
Our volatile history of racial injustice has never been resolved. Instead, we’ve tiptoed around it, whispering and hanging back instead of getting on with the difficult work of defusing it. Over countless generations, we’ve been putting out stubborn fires, professing shock when white supremacy flared up and willfully misunderstanding the difference between grievance and justice. We must contend with these threats.
But on Jan. 20, the American flag flew over the U.S. Capitol, and despite the recent assault on it , regardless of the civic unrest and the political division ,it represented the best of us. Its promised meaning resonated more deeply than ever. Once again, the country moved forward