This last weekend I was extremely grateful for the opportunity to sit among my fellow Americans as we witnessed one of the most revered ceremonies in American history.
Having been gifted tickets to the inauguration the night before, I awoke early that morning with naive and childlike excitement. In my mind, I was among a group of select Americans who also realized the sanctity and symbolism comprised in the inauguration. I would be standing among Americans who held as much pride in their country as I did. After all, why else would one go through all the work of obtaining a ticket, traveling extreme distances and standing in the frigid air for hours if they were not also equally humbled by the ceremony that defines our Americanism?
As we listened to the opening musical presentations that rang with classic Americana, the crowd stamped with impatience and demanded that President- Elect Trump be presented. My friends and I strained our necks to see as members of Congress and the Supreme Court were ushered onto the Capitol balcony. Members of the crowd strained their voices to boo and cheer at various political figures with no more decorum than if they were attending a football game.
The most awe-inspiring moment for me occurred as the former presidents of the United States and their wives joined each other on the balcony. The respect they held for one another and the grace they conducted themselves with was evident to me even as I watched from a distance. It was in these moments that the crowd chose not to quite itself in reverence, but instead, at the sight of Hillary Clinton they raised their voices to mock and jeer with a gusto that struck my heart with a deep shame.
The hatred of the crowd only grew, as the speech of Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, was drowned out by the mocking of the crowd. My heart sank again as cheers and mockery erupted as former President Obama left the balcony shortly after the Inaugural Address.
Leaving the event proved to be no better an experience. As we made our way through the crowds Trump supporters clashed with hoards of protesters, hungry to create conflict and exchange insults. Vendors profited on the hate of the crowd as they sold paraphernalia of political figures with crude sayings and raunchy humor.
I left what should have been an esteemed event with a new disparagement of the state of our country. I have never felt much pride at having elected Donald Trump to be the president of our country, but I will treat him with respect, not because I believe he is a good person, but because he is the leader of our country.
I do not have the position or power of any on the citizens standing on the Capitol balcony on Friday, and until I have the audacity to claim more responsibility than the least endowed among them, I could not bring myself to jeer at their expense. Yet the people in attendance treated the event with no more respect or reverence than they would a sporting event or concert, and it was in these embarrassing and awe-inspiring moments that I felt equally ashamed and proud to be an American.