On this Palm Sunday I have imagined a populist President-elect approaching her inaugural day and the start of her administration. She is the first woman President, which nearly all agree was a long time coming. Yet, remarkably, even as recently as 18 months ago, no one anticipated the election of this President.
She had burst into public awareness when several reports on her views quickly went viral on the web. Among other things, growing segments of the population were united and energized by what seemed her penetrating insight into the great issues of the day, her no nonsense intolerance of the usual games that politicians play, her sometimes scathing critique of systems and programs that no longer work because the world in which they were birthed no longer exists, her startling rejection of both major parties usual ways of framing and answering questions, her simple insistence that everyone counts and everyone can contribute to the well-being of others, and her intriguing policy models projecting that somehow by everyone working together, accepting compromise, shouldering mutual disappointment and pain—that, somehow, a way out of our current political, social, cultural and even spiritual bind would be found. These views went viral, especially as she embodied and shared them with humble confidence and good humor.
Then, to everyone’s surprise but perhaps her own, the deepening frustrations of many joined with the heightening enthusiasm generated by the ever popular candidate to produce a momentum that escalated to victory on election night. Casual observers and the savviest pundits alike could not have been more stunned by the rush of dynamics that had swept this first woman to the Presidency of the United States of America.
But as Inauguration Day approached, inside and outside the D.C. Beltway and across the nation, the initial delight of the historical moment gave way to surprise, shock, and even darker sentiments. It was if people began to realize they’d made a huge mistake. This realization settled in as plans for the Inauguration were revealed. None of the usual people received the invitations they were expecting, either to the Inauguration itself or to the celebrations that would follow. Instead, a system of lotteries was organized throughout the land, and the inaugural attendees were chosen by lot from among the ordinary people in every region of the nation. Thus, come the big day, thousands of busses loaded with the chosen streamed into the Capital. As they moved from their busses to the special seats prepared for them, one could not help noticing the seemingly disproportionate number of children, handicapped, and others whose manner and dress gave them an ill-suited appearance. There were even rumors that some of the chosen were “undocumented persons” who weren’t even U.S. citizens.
As all would expect, even demand, security was heightened and on alert as the inaugural festivities began. On close inspection, however, the security forces and protocols focused primarily on including as many of these odd guests as possible and thwarting the attempts of some to hinder their full participation. Strangely, at no time did it seem that the President herself was actually the center of attention.
Strangely, indeed. As Madame President stood to take the oath of office before this crowd of undistinguished guests, in the hearing of a nation now realizing it had profoundly misconceived the qualifications and commitments of the new President, as the web and social networking systems reached overload levels with blogs and tweets and instant messages of massive outrage and opposition to the President who had yet even to begin … a shot rang out and the President fell.