The National Anthem made me cry.
Specifically, when Lady Gaga sang “that our flag was still there,” I cried, because it reminded me that our country is still here. Battered and bruised and all too aware of its many shortcomings, but still here.
We’ve got another chance to help our country develop into the place it ought to be now that it’s been rescued from the narcissistic criminal who occupied our White House for the last four years.
I’m not really a fan of the flag – the performative patriotism of flag-waving has always repelled me – nor do I usually react to the National Anthem. I know it well and always sing along when I’m in a public gathering.
It’s a matter of respect, of duty as a citizen. (I am, in fact, often appalled at how few people sing it, even at political conventions.)
But it doesn’t usually move me any more than the flag does. I’d prefer a song that wasn’t focused on bombs and war, not to mention one that recognizes all of the people in this country including those who were here long before European settlers set foot on our soil as well as those brought here in chains, not to mention all the immigrants from all the other places who have made us strong.
Still, metaphors work and last Wednesday the flag as a metaphor for our country surviving the last four years did wonders.
In fact, most of what went on at the inauguration worked. Amanda Gorman’s poem was a powerful statement that the young people of this country are ready to dig in and do the work to make us the great place we ought to be.
I have even less love for the Pledge of Allegiance than I do for the flag and anthem, but when Captain Andrea Hall signed it while reciting it, that was powerful.
Watching Justice Sotomayor swear in Vice President Harris moved me greatly.
And President Biden made an excellent speech. Yes, he called for unity, but he didn’t call for the kind of unity that is blind to the harms that have been done.
Neither the president nor anyone else associated with this transition is ignoring the fact that the former holder of the office tried every form of dishonesty to stay in office, including not just outrageous lies but in fact calling on people to commit violence.
The January 6 insurrection work up a lot of people who thought the extreme right was just a joke or even a political position. No, these are people committed to white supremacy and authoritarian government. They are a threat to our democracy and the kind of country we aspire to be.
I was a little worried that Biden might want to push all that under the rug, but so far I don’t think he’s going to.
Biden was far from my first choice for this job, but so far I have been very pleased. Competent people are being put in charge of the pandemic. The cabinet includes so many incredible women.
He’s changing disastrous environmental policies. He supports the $15/hour minimum wage. Janet Yellin is a good choice for Treasury. There’s a pandemic spending plan that deals with both the disease issues and the economic ones.
We’re back in the World Health Organization. We’re back in the Paris Accord. Yeah, neither of those things is perfect, but both the pandemic and climate change are problems that involve a world-wide approach.
Sure, I worry that Biden won’t make enough changes, that he will compromise too much with Wall Street, that some of what has been said will only be for show. I want real health care for all. I want a country where no one is sleeping on the street because they don’t have a place to live.
But it’s going to be such a relief to have fights on these subjects on the merits, instead of trying to make policy when the person in charge is lying about everything that is happening.
Elie Mystal wrote a great piece for The Nation on this, inspired because someone asked him if he wouldn’t miss Trump because it gave him so much to write about. He observed:
After four long years of writing from a defensive crouch, I cannot wait to get back to doing what I do best: screaming at the “white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than justice.” I’m looking forward to being disappointed and underwhelmed by the Biden administration, and advocating for a more aggressive approach to advance progress. It will be a privilege, once again, to fight against friends whom I agree with 85 percent of the time. That’s much less stressful than trying to sleep with one eye open, waiting for #NeverTrump Republicans to shiv my priorities.
I mean, yeah. Now I can focus my energy on what we need to do in Oakland and the rest of California, on building something better instead of fighting a holding action.
I’m looking forward to the future.