Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Most Memorable Image

Inauguration day is all about semiotics; in fact, it may be the most sign-laden day in American culture. More than the Super Bowl, more than election day, more than the 4th of July, inauguration day blends the images of both old and new America. Architecture meets pomp meets flags meets statesmen meets monument meets memory.

This was a day of revolutionary politics and revolutionary pictures. None of us will forget the swarm of bodies along the mall, the embrace of Presidents Obama and Bush, the veteran in the crowd who stood at attention, saluting through the entire address, or the image of the Obama girls taking photos of their father. It was an event that seemed to need the visual plane to register its importance.

To me, the most memorable image was the transportation of and Obama's utilization of the Lincoln Bible.
The process of retrieving and delivering the Bible is, in itself, profoundly symbolic, but watching the guards carry it like a surgeon might cradle a vital organ about to be transplanted drove home the deep historical significance of the Bible--a significance echoed by the entire day.

As a text, the Lincoln Bible is simply remarkable. It's beautiful in its simplicity; the humble design so at odds with its historic significance.

Here's hoping the new president will be able to harness the unifying power of the president whose Bible both anchored his inaugural ship and pushed it out onto the choppy waters of our America.


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