Yesterday was the day when America rejoined the world. In the space of an hour, the dark rhetoric of hate was banished by the winter sunshine over Capitol Hill. In that hour, memories of the violence less than two weeks previously faded like old photographs bleached the sun. By the end of the inauguration, all the fears of mischief, the rumours of armed militias descending upon state capitals bent on havoc were banished. This was no longer the America of mistrust, fear and antipathy towards one’s neighbour. No longer was the country the unwitting victim of a spoilt brat sent to bed without supper. No longer will it be subjected to paranoid politics, looking to bully other nations. No more the politics of revenge, thriving on division. No more of those ridiculous social media outbursts, tweeting into the night like some epileptic nightingale. No more playground politics. It was time. It took four years to do so but in banishing Voldemort from Washington, America finally has drained the swamp. No more politics of division, no more walls of separation. Yes, what did happen to that wall?
Whereas the previous president had a certain novelty value in 2016, that currency was long since spent. A catalogue of misjudgments locally and internationally dragged down credibility of his administration in general and his own standing in particular. Greed driven politics and an every-man-for-himself attitude gnawed away at the very fabric of America and what it is to be an American. A cynical betrayal of the American dream. Power, corruption and lies invaded the collective psyche of the Americans. Greed was good, power the ultimate end and lies the roadmap to that end. A nation ill at ease with itself. Over four years, the previous president’s international pronouncements, off-the-cuff remarks masquerading as reasoned policy, veered between brutish thuggery and comically ill informed rabble-rousing. Denial of climate change, dismissal of the severity of the Covid pandemic and repeated undermining of his own appointed experts did little to instil confidence. No president can be expected to understand all the science. But, as Forrest Gump said “stupid is as stupid does”.
I truly believe in what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature”. America was a great country and yesterday showed it will be again. The damage inflicted over the last four years, severe as it is, is nonetheless reparable Greatness is not measured in personal wealth, in a rising stock market or in the denial of inconvenient facts. Greatness is the sum of many tiny things – the little ways in which we daily show how we care for our fellow man. And that starts from the top down. Respect for individuals starts with respect for your president.
I would like to believe that the last four years will fade from memory with time, the tragic but retrievable error of judgement by the American people. A blip on the timeline of your great republic. More likely I think it will become an example, along with Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, of the terrifying power of mob culture. They will teach it in schools.
Joe Biden has a job ahead of him. I don’t mean coronavirus. I don’t mean race relations. I don’t mean even the international status of the country after four years in which America’s standing in the world slumped to an all-time low. No, these are just steps along the way to the real destination. America needs to wash away the sins of the last administration, to be baptised once more on the path it was always meant to take. There is no country like America. It’s time for Americans to feel good about themselves again, to show ethical and moral leadership at every level, to take pride in a job well done. And yesterday afternoon America, bloodied but unbowed, was born again.