The inauguration was full of exquisite moments: but what was the best bit?

Figcaption The Inauguration Was Full Of Equisite Moments But What Was The Best Bit
Posted at: Author: Rain TV UK

I t started on Tuesday with nerves in the playground: why weren’t they holding it indoors? No one with sense, we agreed, had an appetite for spectacle, and our systems couldn’t take any more. Donald Trump was going, good riddance, but let’s not tempt fate; besides, on Wednesday morning we all had things to do. After a year of rolling crises, even New Yorkers were feeling meek and defeated. Let’s get this thing over with and try to move on.

The most surprising thing about the inauguration this week – apart from the reminder that, when it comes to its national ceremonies, America is if anything even more camp than Britain – was the sheer, irrepressible joy of it. From the first minute to the last there was no containing this thing and nothing – not pragmatism, superstition, trauma fatigue or work – would get in the way of the feeling. “Bye bye Trump, that dummy,” said one of my daughters on Wednesday morning. And so it began.

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In New York, Donald Trump’s home town, the hatred was personal. He was from – but never of – the city, no matter how many buildings bore his name. And if people had cheered in November when his loss was finally confirmed, the day he left office was on a different scale of euphoria. In the intervening months, Trump’s wrecking ball had so upended the political process that the mere fact we had reached his last day seemed to beat all the odds.

On the way to the learning centre, where I dropped my kids for remote schooling, I clicked my fingers like someone warming up to do tap. “How you feeling?” asked my building’s superintendent on my return. And when I said, “great”, he beamed and replied, “It’s a great day.” I did a weird half-military salute, alarming us both, then jumped in the elevator and dashed home for the live stream.

In my neighbourhood there was no synchronised cheering, not least because most of the inauguration streaming services were operating with different time lags, CBS fully 10 seconds behind the New York Times. And there were so many highs, who knew when to cheer first. Which, in a crowded field, was the most exquisite moment? Was it Mike Pence, standing there like Scarlett O’Hara forced to attend the Wilkes’s party, snubbed by all but the host? Was it Michelle Obama’s entrance, her belt like a bat signal telegraphing the triumph of good over evil? Was it Bernie’s mittens? Suddenly things were funny again, and not in an oh-God-we’re-all-going-to-die last gasp of hysteria.

For me, it was the signing in of Kamala Harris. Joe Biden’s speech, when it came, was measured and pitch-perfect – Bill Pullman at the end of Independence Day, standing in the rubble while movingly misquoting Dylan Thomas. The greater moment was Harris’s, however – the passing of political power from an administration headed by a racist, misogynist, alleged sex offender, to the first woman, and woman of colour, to hold such senior office. By the time Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez came out I was ready to stand up and weird-salute all over again.

Trump, boycotting the ceremony, flew from Washington to Florida, the swamp state and his spiritual home. In New York, many of us felt 10lb lighter. A question remains as to whether his family will ever be welcome in the city again. I love New York but it is, assuredly, packed to the rafters with douchebags, and whether the Trumps are rehabilitated will come down to money. If the family hangs on to its fortune, Ivanka and Jared will almost certainly be able to buy their way back in.

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The same may not be said for Trump himself. There aren’t many crimes that money can’t launder, but attempted treason is probably one of them. The amazing thing, in the hours after the inauguration, was just how irrelevant he suddenly seemed. I live a few blocks from a Trump building and, in the past four years, have often puzzled over what I should shout at him if we crossed paths. It had to be just right, a word guaranteed to cut through the crowd and knife him right in the soul. Was it, simply, “loser”? Was it “you’re bankrupt”? Was it “moron”?

If I do see him, I still may be inclined to yell something, but it also seemed suddenly not to matter. Stripped of power, credibility and his megaphone on Twitter, Trump looked as sad as Saddam Hussein in his hole.

In a good way, the celebrating didn’t last. Instead, post-inauguration, it felt like the engagement of gears; a click and then straight on to business. The memory will endure. When I picked up my girls from the learning centre that day, I asked if their counsellors had turned on the TV. “Yeah, they were all looking at something in the lobby,” said my daughter.

“Could you see what it was?” I asked. No, she said. “But people were screaming.”

  • Emma Brockes is a Guardian columnist

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