Alan Zendell, January 20, 2021, Inauguration Day
Wednesday, November 4th was a beautiful day in Maryland, thirty miles north of the White House. The sun shone, the temperature reached 62, and every outside table at every restaurant in our town was filled. Everyone was masked (at least until their lunches arrived) but even so the smiles on everyone’s faces were apparent. I never realized before how much we smile with our eyes.
The joy radiated from everyone there, each person’s warmth combining into a thing greater than itself. The end of our national nightmare was at hand. Servers received huge tips that afternoon, and a record number of kudos were relayed inside to the chef. My fish and chips were superb, at least I think they were. Maybe it was just the moment. After all, fish and chips are just fish and chips.
Our joy was put on hold the next day as T***p (I refuse to say his name) began his seventy-five-day campaign of terror. Have you ever battled a fire, working and sweating beyond the point of exhaustion before you extinguished it, only to see it flare up even hotter the moment you walked away? That’s what it felt like between November 5th and January 19th. The forty-six-month hell that began on January 20, 2017 wasn’t ready to let us go. The reign of terror had one very predictable final act to play. We all watched it two weeks ago, on January 6th.
But not today. Today we learned that joy deferred is sweet indeed. Despite the unfortunate spectacle of a Baghdad-style green zone surrounding the Capitol grounds, America witnessed a brilliant transition from what was to something far better. Our new president, Joseph R. Biden, he of the huge heart and beautiful soul, set us back on the true path to greatness. His inaugural speech was uplifting, an attempt to unify the country that only the most hardened cynic could reject out of hand.
Biden asked, simply, for those that fought so hard to overturn his victory based on lies and conspiracy theories, those who had been manipulated and misled for months, to hear him out. Listen and watch what happens, and if they’re still not satisfied, he would listen in return and try to find common ground.
Common ground, after all, is what our form of government is all about. Without it, we devolve into warring factions, and partisanship rules. Things had gotten so bad, we wondered if they could ever be fixed. We still don’t know, but today was a wonderful beginning. Three former presidents were there, honoring the peaceful transfer of power that defines us. Outgoing Vice President Pence, free of the burden of sycophancy he was forced to bear for four years must have infuriated his former boss, just by behaving like a Mensch.
Most of us were so enthralled by President Biden’s inauguration we forgot the worry and anxiety his predecessor had created. Threats of armed insurrection, in Washington and in all fifty state capitals never materialized. The monster was beheaded when its leader departed in disgrace under threat of criminal prosecution for his attack on our Constitution.
The alternate universe the right-wing extremists have been inhabiting no longer exists. The nationwide search for all those that invaded the Capitol has brought back a sense of reality. The fantasy that the domestic terrorists were the real patriots, and that law enforcement would embrace them as liberators imploded. The FBI, the National Guard, and the overwhelming majority of police officers support the law and the Constitution. The real crazies, the ones who live for revolution and anarchy aren’t going anywhere, but all the air has been taken out of their movement.
Our joy is palpable today because President Biden has left the door wide open for anyone who wants to help heal the country. It’s open for all the centrists who have felt abandoned by their parties. It’s open for people who were bombarded by threats that Biden would allow socialists, communists, and left-wing extremists to run his administration. In the clear light of today, only the most hardened of the opposition, those that oppose just for the sake of opposing, still believe all that crap.
Today is a day to rejoice, to bask in the knowledge that we have a president who cares about all of us. It doesn’t mean our problems will evaporate overnight, but at least we’re moving in the right direction. A million people a day will be vaccinated, people in desperate straits will receive the help they need, and by Spring we will all feel life returning to normal. That will be Biden’s legacy, and the process begins today.