Did you watch the Inauguration? Perhaps see clips of it later? Cheryl watched it live. I watched it in full later that afternoon. Both of us found ourselves with tears on our cheeks at various points. It was a moving, emotional event. In a lot of ways it was crafted like a worship service and the sermon was one of hope and determination.
And then in the days afterward, the Senator Bernie Sanders meme with his chair and his mittens flooded the internet. People took a picture of Sen. Sanders sitting in a chair at the Inauguration, wearing a good warm coat, wearing his mask, wearing a big pair of mittens, trying to stay warm and photo shopped it into just about every place or scene you could imagine. I saw several photos of UU congregations with Bernie sitting in or outside their sanctuaries. My favorite of them was probably Bernie on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise– though the one of him on the Union Terrace in Madison, WI was also nostalgic.
These two emotional reactions — joyful tears and silly laughter — are understandable. We’ve been dealing with an ongoing trauma, several ongoing traumas. The last four years have been an ongoing onslaught of worry, anger, sorrow, and shock. Shortly after the 2016 election, a journalist started a website entitle “What the **** Happened Today?” He started it to keep track of the march of madness and mayhem we were experiencing under that administration. It was the way many of us felt. The mind and body does not react well to ongoing stress. On top of that ongoing trauma, we then added the pandemic. Being afraid of the illness, being isolated and distanced, worried about our jobs, finances, and our loved ones. And so, another ongoing trauma. No wonder we were tired and depressed and struggling to make it through the days. Trauma does that.
And so, on the day of Inauguration, many of us felt one of those traumas lift. Things weren’t perfect, the world still was messed up, but for the first time in a long time, we could breathe, we could sleep, we could laugh. And we did. The Bernie meme was an expression of that collective need to laugh and be silly for a change. It’s a good sign. It’s a sign of our resilience and our community.
I tuned in to the memorial vigil held by President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris on Tuesday night. If you missed it, it is available online through PBS. It was short and extremely moving. The loveliest, most meaningful part for me was the long silence at the end. They knew enough to have a long protracted silence, something that is not often a part of events, especially political ones. But maybe this wasn’t intended to be political. Maybe it was exactly what it appeared to be– two people grieving with us. Giving us the time and the space to grieve with them. In the silence, I felt held. And that was something I needed more than I realized.
The pandemic is still a thing. They predict things will likely get worse before they get better. But every day, more and more of us are vaccinated. And I rejoice each time I hear one of you has gotten the vaccine. Our political representatives are still acting like poorly behaved children, but our new President is taking actions every day to return us to a time of rationality and compassion.
I can breathe. I can sleep. I can laugh. I can make it through this.
And so can you. So can we.