by Moe White for The Urban News –
As I write this, President Joseph R. Biden and Vice-president Kamala D. Harris were just sworn in to lead our country. (Doesn’t it feel awesome just to say those names with those titles?!?)
Watching their inauguration felt like a return to a mythical, magical past. Not the myth of the “lost cause” that impelled the past four years of carnage, indecency, destruction, and virtual treason, but the magic and majesty of an American story that has motivated generations of people from around the world to believe in a land of promise, a land of justice and equality, a land of the possibility that people can, in fact, live up to their highest aspirations, accomplish their highest goals, fulfill their common dream.
The compassion of an Abraham Lincoln offering “charity towards all, and malice towards none”; the determination of a Franklin D. Roosevelt to pull the nation back from the brink of collapse, with “nothing to fear but fear itself”; the exhortation of a John F. Kennedy to ask us to place the common good above personal desire, asking “not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”; the faith of Martin Luther King, Jr. that we can, and shall, be joined hand in hand in looking out, from the mountaintop of his great vision, across a nation united in brotherhood; and above all, the pure, unbridled optimism of a Barack Obama proclaiming, “Yes! We can!”
“Si! Se puede!”
All these strains of great leadership and vision were at the forefront of President Biden’s address, with its unmistakable rejection of every molecule of trumpism from American polity with the simple statement, “Democracy has prevailed.”
Those same themes infused the poetry of America’s Poet Laureate, the 22-year-old Amanda Gorman. Her brilliant, powerful, beautifully delivered address [to say nothing of her yellow coat and bright red crown] celebrated our, and the nation’s, hope, faith, promise, and determination, and did not hesitate to call out the evil that has been fomented over the past five years since a disgruntled citizen rode down a gilded escalator to declare war on the America we have struggled almost two-and-a-half centuries to create and perfect.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it,
would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed,
it can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth, in this faith, we trust.
For while we have our eyes on the future,
history has its eyes on us.
A heavy load
In the words of songwriter Cody Jinks, “The train jumped track some time ago//You can’t root that heavy load.” And indeed, Biden and Harris face crises as burdensome as any of those faced by their predecessors.
- Not yet Civil War, but a literal attempt at insurrection designed to overthrow the legitimately elected government of the United States.
- Not the Great Depression, but a recession so deep and wide, brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, that fewer Americans are employed today than were at the beginning of 2017, and as many businesses have closed as during almost any other era in our history.
- Not yet the death toll of the “Spanish flu” of 1918, but already 400,000 dead in this country alone, even as the virus moves into its most destructive phase and the most dangerous winter approaches.
And not the widespread murder and mayhem, lynchings and coups d’état of Wilmington and Tulsa; nor yet the terror of Jim Crow, nor the fire hoses and attack dogs of Montgomery; but the emergence of a viral strain of racism, white supremacy, Christian dominionism, and anti-Semitism, that marches under the banner of reclaiming all power for white Christian men and subordination of every other person: all women, people of color, sexual minorities, immigrants, “infidels,” liberals, and every other believer in the Constitution and the American promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Yet, as the Gospel Imperials sang, “God gonna lighten up your load, whatever it is.”
The rejection of white supremacy
And indeed, beginning with our votes, the nation has soundly repudiated the deplorables’ demand that, in effect, the First Amendment be repealed and the Second made paramount. We the People have rejected their implied desire that the 13th, 14th, 15th Reconstruction Amendments, and the 19th (women’s suffrage), be overturned.
Moreover, the apocalyptic scene of Jan. 6, 2021—itself the culmination of the apocalyptic inaugural address of Jan. 20, 2017—has been universally denounced. The head of the monster has been cut off, for now, though its followers will likely continue attempting to “destroy the nation in order to save it.” And they will certainly seek out a new fuehrer—Hawley, Cruz, Cawthorn, Haley, or some other—to again incite their passions and stoke their hatred.
But the fact is that, for now, in President Biden’s words, “Democracy has prevailed.”