With the coming of January here in the United States, inaugural season is well underway. It's an off-year as most states elect their governors in the mid-presidential cycle -- i.e. this coming November -- but mayors and other municipal-level officials are taking their oaths. And, being liturgical people, we can and should view executive inaugurals through the prism of their place as prime rituals of civic religion, which is an important element in any pluralistic society. These ceremonies affirm common values, call upon tradition while looking with hope toward a better future and serve to project the best image and highest aspirations of the community in question.
Ergo, in a move which makes my history-buff heart weep with gladness, next Saturday's inaugural of Virgnia's new governor, Tim Kaine (also the first Catholic ever to hold the office), is making a big move back in time, from the modern capital of Richmond to the colonial seat of Williamsburg. Wonderfully fascinating, even if it's only being done because the Richmond Capitol is wrapped with scaffolding.
Tip to the Great Don Jim, a Mummer at heart.
From 1699 to 1780, Williamsburg was the political and cultural center of Colonial Virginia, where the royal governor sat, the government gathered and George Washington, Jefferson and others plotted revolution against England. Nowadays, it is the largest living history project in the United States, a 301-acre time machine with cobblestone streets, a working tavern and hundreds of reenactors who portray life during the town's heyday while dressed in authentic Colonial garb.
The arrival of a modern political bash in this preserved world of the past will produce great photo ops -- think Colonial cannon, horse-drawn carriages and a fife and drum corps. It'll also make for a particularly historic inauguration for Kaine and the start of a Virginia celebration that will continue into 2007 with the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the founding of the first permanent English settlement in the Americas at Jamestown.