I was originally writing an article about Martin Luther King Jr. but it sucked, so here's a picture of him thugging it up.This Thursday, January 20, 2005, throngs of primarily rich Americans will descend upon Washington, D.C. to witness the quadrennial pageant of the presidential inauguration. During this event, the greatest spectacle of democracy in the world, hulking men with enormous machine guns will patrol the streets and alleyways of our nation's capital, prepared to spring into action at the drop of a hat to protect democracy from those who might wish to thwart it. Helicopter gunships bristling with weaponry, slavering dogs straining against their master's leash, rooftop snipers drawing a bead on those displaying the slightest whisper of Arab ancestry: the cogs of America's vast machinery will be turning steadily to ensure that our tribute to democracy goes off without a hitch.
The 2005 festivities are shaping up to be a spectacular affair, and will include no less than nine official balls, a youth concert, a parade, and a fireworks display. Planners estimate that the total cost will approach $40 million, but then, who can really put a price on democracy? A formal ceremony in which absolutely no power is transferred whatsoever certainly deserves such grandiosity.
Of course, since the presidential inauguration is one of America's richest and most lively traditions, from its earliest incarnations it has been a great source of spectacle. Here's just a small sampling of factoids about inaugurations through the ages:
~ - = Inauguration Day Trivia = - ~
|The word "inauguration," correctly spelled "inaugeration," is derived from a now-retired procedure where a hole was drilled in the incoming president's skull in order to release any treasonous spirits.|
|The tradition of crowning the Inaugural Ball King and Queen proved awkward in 1857, when a count of the votes ended up pairing bachelor president James Buchanan with vice president John Breckinridge. The new president ordered everyone present to cover their eyes while the two performed the traditional dance. 14 people peeked through their fingers and were later shot.|
|The shortest inaugural address in history was given by George Washington in 1793, when he famously remarked, "What, am I supposed to do this again?"|
|The Inaugural Night Blowjob was first introduced by Mamie Eisenhower in 1953.|
|After his first Inaugural Ball in 1933, the wheelchair-bound FDR's erratic gyrations gave rise to a short-lived dance fad called the "Fluttering Frankie."|
|Teddy Roosevelt did not swear his oath on a Bible, because he felt it would conflict with his Islamic faith.|
|In 1825, John Quincy Adams became the first president to be sworn in while wearing long trousers, after a trade embargo resulted in a shortage of the silks used to make the long flowing dresses worn up to that point.|
|At the after-inaugural reception, whoever catches the president's flower bouquet becomes the ambassador to Sweden.|
|Richard Nixon is the only president to drop the F-bomb in his inaugural address.|
|The parade for George W. Bush's second inauguration will include 14 giant floats. The float on which Bush will be borne to his swearing-in ceremony is covered in 540,000 rose petals, each one painstakingly hand-glued by inmates at Guantanamo Bay.|
|One of the vice president's unofficial inauguration day duties is to watch the intoxicated president and ensure that he does not get himself into any compromising situations. After the 1961 inaugural, where John F. Kennedy was discovered in a broom closet with a half-naked hostess, Lyndon Johnson was caned for 45 minutes.|
And here's MLK and Malcolm X accepting some sort of award, I don't know what the hell I was thinking.
|Secret Service agents are given orders to take down any president-elect that attempts to wrest control of the presidency before the constitutionally mandated 12:00 PM.|
|A special crown and scepter designed by Paul Revere were used in every inauguration until 1909, when William Taft accidentally sat on the scepter and broke it, that fat fucking turd.|
|Upon approaching the dais for his inaugural address, an overexcited George H.W. Bush told the assembled crowd to "raise the roof," which was followed by a long, embarrassing silence.|
|Abraham Lincoln's second inauguration ceremony in 1865 was attended by only 87 people, as everyone else was dead.|
|In 1841, William Henry Harrison delivered the longest inaugural address in history in the freezing cold, caught pneumonia, and died a month later.|
|Franklin Pierce and Herbert Hoover are the only two presidents to "affirm" their oath rather than "swear" it, because they just haaaad to be different.|
|Gerald Ford never had a proper inauguration ceremony, because he is a dumb bastard.|
|Martin Van Buren remains the only president to not attend his own inauguration ceremony after security officials refused to let him in. They later claimed that they had never heard of Martin Van Buren and people had just made him up.|
|In order to preserve the tradition of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court administering the oath of office, William Rehnquist's corpse was embalmed following his death in December 2004. Special software designed for the occasion by Industrial Light & Magic will digitally erase the monofilament wire used to give the Chief Justice the illusion of movement.|
Whew! With your newfound perspective, I hope that Thursday's pomp is that much more meaningful to you.