It's the day after Joe Biden and Kamala Harris's inauguration and I'm pondering why I was so moved by it. Of course I know the Democratic Party is a neo-liberal capitalist party with imperialist foreign policy and yet I am so happy they won the election. It's the defeat of something very close to fascism that makes sense. It’s like being glad that Hitler lost World War II.
It started with Lady Gaga singing the national anthem. I sang it every day in school until I was 9 years old. My family left for Canada when I was just turning 10. Then I had to say the Lord’s Prayer in school every morning. I didn’t like that at all. It wasn’t my prayer. So maybe I got attached the Star Spangled Banner, reminding me of my extended family in Brooklyn instead of the stress of the nuclear family in Toronto. I don’t like the song but Lady Gaga inhabited it with such power, pride and joy, it was impossible not to get caught up and maybe remember my childhood attachment to it.
Biden’s speech was pretty good. He’s a terrible speaker with only about 3 gears, yelling, crying and slightly moved but the speech was good. I couldn’t understand how he won the Democratic Primary. He was one of the least impressive candidates in the debates but now I get it. He’s the anti-Trump. The exact opposite of Trump in every way except age. I understand his call for unity too. When half the country hates the other half and vice versa, what choice is there but to try for unity for at least part of that other half? I’m sure 70 million people don’t love Trump so much that they can ignore his inciting a riot. I don’t know. I understand Trump’s appeal as a charismatic flim flam man but I can’t bring myself to believe that almost half the country actually agrees with his racism, sexism and alternate realities.
And then there was the poet Amanda Gorman. There are moments in life, like if you were watching that first time on television when the child Michael Jackson came out on stage with his brothers and you saw him sing and dance and knew someone magical had come into the world. Hearing Amanda Gorman at the young age of 22 speak the words that needed to be said was one such moment, greater than the others because it was also political.
“When the day comes, we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
If only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
Wow. Mind blowing it was. And most of the music throughout the day and evening was about seeing the light, moving ahead. The Americans really know how to put on a show and this one demonstrated the richness of what is coming to be called multi-racial democracy.
I hope Biden is genuine in his claim to end racial injustice but I’m not holding my breath. Maybe it’s that I want it so. Before I die, I’d really like to see another time of major change for justice. We’re in a moment where that could happen. In my wildest dreams Amanda Gorman is not just a brilliant light in the darkness but a sign of what’s coming from the next generation. I think of the smart, generous young Black women I hear on some of the US webinars and I hope.