The Real Meaning Of The 'Field Of Flags' At The National Mall

The January after every election season sees Washington D.C.'s National Mall, which sits between the Lincoln Memorial on the west and the U.S. Capitol on the east, becomes a party zone, weather permitting, as crowds gather for the presidential inauguration which takes place once every four years (via National Park Service). The record for the greatest number of people at any U.S. presidential inauguration belongs to Barack Obama who saw a turnout of 1.8 million in 2009, and 1 million in 2013. Bill Clinton's first inauguration in 1993 attracted 800,000 people, and George W. Bush drew a crowd of 400,000 in 2005 (via PolitiFact). 

But the inauguration of America's 46th President, Joe Biden, will be different this year, thanks largely to a coronavirus pandemic which has now claimed close to 400,000 lives, and sickened more than 24 million Americans (via The New York Times). It will also be different thanks to the shocking attack by outgoing President Donald Trump's supporters, who descended on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 in a deadly riot. That riot, and the security concerns it triggered, has turned the nation's capitol into a war zone with thousands of troops patrolling the streets (via CNN). 

The inaugural committee has planted a 'Field of Flags' at the National Mall

While there may be no cheering crowds and no partygoers, those of us who want to catch the inauguration on TV and streamed on our devices will get to witness something we've never seen before — instead of a field of people, we get a field of flags. 191,500 flags to be exact, as well as 56 pillars of light in a National Mall installation called "Field of Flags" as part of an overarching Inaugural theme of "America United" (via PBS News Hour). The display, which was set up by the Presidential Inaugural Committee to commemorate President-elect Joe Biden's swearing in, are meant to represent the people who could not travel to the National Mall to be a part of the Inauguration. The 56 pillars of light are meant to be the 50 U.S. states and territories (via HuffPost).

While some might think Joe Biden got cheated out of a proper inauguration, others will say the Field of Flags as well as the high level of security surrounding the event is in keeping with the times. Regardless, we can only appreciate the thought and ingenuity that resulted in this memorable sight.