Ritual and symbolism. They lie at the heart of every community,every nation.No one loves , maybe needs, them more that the USA. No nation can do without them but somehow this melting pot of immigrants, only four hundred years old, clings to rituals and symbols with an intensity which we Europeans sometimes think is child like. The flags every where,the intricate folding of the flag ceremonies and so it goes on.
So just as the once every sixty years a coronation(and its oft repeated memory) is a very big deal here, so, the every four years inauguration of the president means a lot to the land of the free. They flock to Washington to enjoy the spectacle ,to see once again the star spangled banner wave in its full glory. The pomp of the State is paraded, the democracy of powers recognised, the wisdom of the incoming President recorded, the nation basks in its own warmth and congratulation.
Symbols and rituals have held communities together since the first men went on hunts together and shared accommodation to further the chances of the tribe. But two dark clouds floated across this years inauguration . Both pregnant with symbolism and ritual.
The Star Spangled Banner that prince of anthems is always sung by the leading cantor of the tribe. Beyonce it is. But she didn’t sing ,she mimed. She used the wonders of modern technology to simulate a ritual. She cheated. Did the crowds come to watch a simulation, did the millions tune in to watch something done in a studio? No. So by miming a ritual they debased it. They missed the symbolism of the nation listening to its cantor singing its wonderful message. They pissed on a grave. the point about the Kings Speech is that it might go wrong.
Part of any tribal pageant is the best and brightest young people performing for their chief,their President. For many it will be a golden moment in an ordinary life. The day they sang,played and marched for the President. From his home town Chicago came Hadiya Pendleton who was a majorette in her high school band.
How proud the fifteen year old must have been, strutting her stuff in that gleam of that mornings first beam. How excited must her band and the watching crowd have been as they marched down Washington’s wide boulevards with those broad stripes and bright stars so gallantly streaming from every pole.
Three days later this girl and her pals were sheltering from the rain on their volley ball court. A young boy ran in brandishing his pistol. His pursuers fired at random. In this minor skirmish in a suburb of Chicago a little bit of the havoc of war and battles confusion was created. The foul footsteps of pollution were marked out. They missed the boy but hit the girl who only days before had been the flower of her generation. Dread silence now reposes. For her, who a few days before had seen the best of the heav’n rescued land, all that remained was the gloom of the grave. A ritual killing with awful symbolism.