City of Brass

City of Brass

The inauguration: a secular Hajj

My friend Ali Eteraz calls the Inauguration a “secular hajj” for America:

The theological comparison isn’t far-fetched. Emerson, Whitman, Dewey, and Rorty all suggested that politics is America’s civil religion.
This makes the constitution the country’s holy text. The division of
government into a legislative, executive and judicial branch is an
earthly version of a triune deity. As for the presidency, the novelist
EL Doctorow described its metaphysical role when he wrote: “With each
elected president the nation is conformed spiritually. He is the
artificer of our malleable national soul. He proposes not only the laws
but the kinds of lawlessness that govern our lives and invoke our
responses. The people he appoints are cast in his image. The trouble
they get into, and get us into, is his characteristic trouble. Finally,
the media amplify his character into our moral weather report. He
becomes the face of our sky, the conditions that prevail.”


inauguration is a ritual, akin to Muslims touching the walls of the
Ka’bah in Mecca. It renders tangible the ethereal. It is a reminder
that the government is like an idol, a fact that was well known to
those who introduced the modern nation-state – the French even raised a
new goddess after the revolution – but which goes entirely forgotten by

Eteraz doesn’t stop there, though – go read his piece in full, for just like the Hajj, there is a kind of redemption involved.

I was hoping he would make a pun regarding the Black Stone, though :)

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