I couldn’t help but notice my drowsiness watching the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. I’ve been waiting for this day for four years which, in reality, have played out in a real time that makes it about 16 years. I’ve aged a generation since the infamous “American carnage” speech we all endured lo not that many years ago. But as President Joe spoke (just call me Joe), I was nodding off because four years of stress and anguish was starting to slough off. I can’t wait for bedtime tonight as I anticipate the most restful slumber I’ve had since, horrified, I heard the words “alternative facts” dribble forth onto a national stage.
This is a moment to enjoy the pause but resist complacency.
This moment is a mere oasis, I know, in a sea of strife still to be addressed. It’s popular culture now for news hosts to intone the litany of all of our ills, physical, social, economic, political. It’s a mere moment of rest we can take, at least knowing that the time during which a man-child with a temper controlled the full power of the United States arsenal, both symbolic and literal…and activated it…against us.
Even as I watched this ceremony today, drinking in all the pomp and circumstance, greatly curbed by pandemic protocols, I had to resist the urge that we peacemakers, often Democrats by name, have of calling it all good and uniting. Part of uniting is accountability and, while it sounds good, it can be exhausting because it forces you to live in a worse time, a past time, that would be so easy to let go because of its stink. I hope we continue to stay there and make all of those shallow voices calling for “healing” when all they’ve done for four years is sow hatred and divide account for their actions. The piper needs to be paid.
I do hope, though, that the effervescent feeling of electing the first African American and Asian and female vice-president doesn’t fade too quickly; that the fullness of soul in electing a former Senator who failed three times at a run for president doesn’t escape us too quickly. I have a feeling that “history’s eyes” will see this moment as watershed for this country. Even though I need a nap, I’m going to stay awake just to live in these moments of this historic day because it’s been a long dark road to get here.
And dear god, how do we start the process of naming Amanda Gorman a national treasure? (And is it me or did we hear a little Hamilton influence in here?)
“The Hill We Climb”
Mr. President, Dr. Biden, Madam Vice President, Mr. Emhoff, Americans and the world, when day comes we ask ourselves where can we find light in this never-ending shade? The loss we carry asea we must wade. We’ve braved the belly of the beast. We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace. In the norms and notions of what just is isn’t always justice. And yet, the dawn is ours before we knew it. Somehow we do it. Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished. We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president only to find herself reciting for one.
And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect. We are striving to forge our union with purpose. To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters, and conditions of man. And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another. We seek harm to none and harmony for all. Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true. That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped. That even as we tired, we tried that will forever be tied together victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.
Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid. If we’re to live up to her own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made. That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb if only we dare. It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a forest that would shatter our nation rather than share it. Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy. 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. This is the era of just redemption. We feared it at its inception. We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour, but within it, we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves so while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe? Now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be a country that is bruised, but whole, benevolent, but bold, fierce, and free. We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation. Our blunders become their burdens. But one thing is certain, if we merge mercy with might and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.
So let us leave behind a country better than one we were left with. Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one. We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the West. We will rise from the wind-swept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution. We will rise from the Lake Rim cities of the Midwestern states. We will rise from the sun-baked South. We will rebuild, reconcile and recover in every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country our people diverse and beautiful will emerge battered and beautiful. When 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.
Amanda Gorman, Inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris,
Jan. 20, 2021