To inaugurate is “to take omens from the flight of birds.” At least, that’s how the OED explains the word’s derivation — from the Latin inaugurāre. Nature as a source of signs related to events that might affect human beings comes under the category of what the American Pragmatic Philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) called an “indexical sign.” His theories of semiotics trade in signals, signs and symptoms, and their interpretation.
Flocks of birds might herald changes in the weather, a disturbance in the landscape, or an approaching army. A skilled interpreter of nature might even articulate plausible causal connections between signs, events and their effects on people, other animals, places and things. In contemporary terms, changes in bird populations and migration patterns possibly signal global climate change.
To say that Trump’s inauguration speech yesterday did not augur well for the planet takes on multiple meanings. His post-apocalyptic narrative signalled a country apparently in ruins, with himself as its saviour. Such simplistic redemptive talk also positioned him as symptom of the malignant world he constructed throughout his campaign.
His inauguration speech was augured via countless double-talking, block-buster movie villains, and some media quipsters have already linked it to Bane’s demented speech in The Dark Knight Rises (2012) (see The Hollywood Reporter): “We take Gotham from the corrupt! The rich! The oppressors of generations who have kept you down with myths of opportunity. And we give it to you, the people.”
During the inauguration, systems operatives flicked a switch that aligned www[dot]whitehouse[dot]gov with the new administration’s website and “An America First Energy Plan” that shows a commitment “to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule.” So there’s some kind of circle here, connecting inauguration, signs, rhetoric, pop-culture, redemption and ruination, but with nature and what depends on it as the biggest loser.
- Peirce, Charles Sanders. 1932. The Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce. Vol. 2 Elements of Logic. Cambridge: Harvard University Press
- Sebeok, Thomas A. 1999. Signs: An Introduction to Semiotics. Toronto: University of Toronto Press
- Trump thought The The Dark Knight Rises was “really terrific.”
- The former, Obama White House website is archived at: obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/