Today is Saturday January 22. Kia ora!
Joe Robinette (?) Biden Jnr is now safely inaugurated as President of the US.
Hey, America, don’t do that again! I always found America a scarily wonderful place, a vast land of huge contrasts. I’ve been there six times, so I feel I have some right to make statements of fact and opinion. Even when Obama was President, it was a scary place. But the last four years have really been something else.
I have close family members living there, so I have had a quite intimate fear, as well as the fear of the world in general. America, who’s in charge, and what is done, has a profound effect on the rest of the world, even here in New Zealand. I know there are many wonderful people in America, for whom I have enormous respect, so how could Trump even be elected? Be the republican candidate? It’s really important who’s in government, if you don’t want the death penalty, or physical punishment in schools; if you want contraception to be freely available; oh, and that black folk be fairly treated – many of these things we take for granted in other civilised nations.
This “aberration”, as RBG called it, has been horrendous. Yes, I realise many Americans who voted for Joe Biden are experiencing a huge sense of relief, but we were terrified too. I followed the election, and all its steps, very closely. Each morning the first thing I would do on waking was see what Trump was up to. It wasn’t just that he didn’t do stuff – he actively interfered when others were trying to do the Right Thing! Most if not all “good people” were fired by him. His handling of the pandemic has been dreadful.
What a relief, then, to have a new administration! Despite much fear and anticipation, nothing bad happened. In fact, like the DNC Convention, it was a joyful, joyous ceremony, full of surprises, which did much to make it truly memorable:
- Biden’s wonderful speech, highly rated by Chris Wallace and many others;
- Despite heavy security, to us watching on television it didn’t seem heavy;
- Many wonderful pop stars, including J Lo singing “This land is your land, this land is my Land”, and then speaking in Spanish;
- The crowds weren’t in the Mall, but thousands of flags (used properly) were;
- An amazing fireworks display;
- Amanda Gorman’s poem, and her utter self-confidence in demonstrating with her arms and reading it;
- Everyone wore masks;
- Ted Cruz and John Hawley were there;
- Pence was there (having declined Trump’s farewell party at Andrews Air Base); Trump wasn’t there, thank goodness.
- The whole scene was incredibly moving, and brought tears to my eyes.
Like many others, I rejoiced when there were so many Democratic candidates for president; I despaired when Joe Biden was chosen. But he has turned out to be a good candidate, and probably the only one who could have beaten Trump. In the end it wasn’t even close, and Biden won comfortably, although it seemed there were innumerable hurdles to jump over. Biden looked frail at times. At the first presidential debate, male Americans were horrified by how “violated” they felt. Some women felt their blood pressure go up, and panic attacks coming on. Would Biden get the coronavirus? How would he cope with the wearying travel requirements? But the man (and his VP nominee, and his team) rose to the occasion, and it has all been memorable in so many ways. Remember the disruptions to the US Postal Service? One might say despite numerous obstacles, and a global pandemic, democracy rose to meet the moments (and there were many of them).
After the inauguration, rather than expensive balls, we had a press conference, fronted by Jen Psaki. What a change! We weren’t lied to! She was gracious. All the Democrats speak well. I’m sure there are some bad eggs. But just at present, they all speak well and sound eloquent and gracious. The way they speak is a huge contrast to republican politicians, for whom everything seems political. This press conference reminds me of some in New Zealand, where some members of the press asked really silly questions. Jan Psaki remained unfazed.
Biden’s team is filled with wonderful, capable people, who are both thoughtful and intelligent. None of them overshadows Biden, but he lets them get on with their work. And what a joy it is to see Dr Fauci unleashed, even having a chuckle! I was very moved by his recent interview on Rachel Maddow’s show. So, the Democrats are wonderful. They are trustworthy. They are gracious.
In contrast, the republicans are all over the place. McConnell has trashed Trump, publicly, twice, but he’s being difficult about governing, after being in control of the Senate for so long. How loyal are the other senators to him? Lisa Murkowski is evidently thinking of voting with the Dems; a motion to censure Cruz and Hawley has been put forward. I have heard pundits argue whether their despicable actions are good politics for them. They seem treasonous to others. Everything is political. Some (e.g. Kevin McCarthy) are punished for not being “Trumpy” enough; Linsey Graham, who is mates again with Trump, after denouncing him on January 6th, was jeered at an airport recently. They can’t get it right now. I think Mitt Romney’s message to tell one’s constituents the truth is not amazing, just sensible. The death threats must have been scary, but some folk stood up to Trump, e.g. Raffensperger, Gabriel Sterling, Rosen, and Liz Cheney (who denounced Trump strongly) has been called on to resign. The Republican Party, as at their awful Convention at the White House, still has no platform. What exactly does it stand for?
What a joy it is not to hear Trump on twitter. That is a huge move, and has proved to be hugely disempowering. I am sure there are folk who would be happy to relay his message, but he hasn’t been prepared to learn to use another social media platform. After all, he’s 74 years old – probably not that adaptable. I listened to part of his farewell speech – it started out being quite gracious, but as time went on I just couldn’t stand the lies. I did notice the omission of Kimberley Guilfoyle from his speech. All his other children, and their spouses, were mentioned by name.
The stories just keep coming of his ghastliness. The string of last-minute pardons (of some people who pled guilty to committing really bad crimes) include one to Steve Bannon, who fleeced Trump’s supporters sending money to build the southern border wall! Trump’s own supporters have not only bought into many of the lies, but they contributed to a fund which was used to pay Steve Bannon! Their contributions didn’t go towards building the Wall. Meanwhile, his supporters breached the Capitol! They weren’t kept out by police, barriers, or respect for democratic institutions – government by elected representatives, be they gun-toting, Q-Anon conspirators, or people who had no intention of respecting the Oath to the Constitution they had taken. Now the Proud Boys are feeing abandoned by Trump – they were just doing as he asked!
All this talk about free speech seems silly to me. Surely one should aim not to hurt anyone by what one says: own your own opinions, but be careful how you state them! And remember, while you’re entitled to your own opinions, you aren’t entitled to your own facts. Sometimes the truth takes a while to emerge, but you can always say “At the moment it seems to me…”. Surely one should always try not to be hurtful. You’re allowed to admit to having been wrong, or having changed your views!
Here in New Zealand, the government has tightened border restrictions – you now have to have a negative Covid 19 test before getting on a plane to come here. I just hope the vaccines arrive before we have another community outbreak. There have been no major incidents at MIQ facilities recently, but we all depend on these good folk, who of course have their own families and networks. There is an alarming number of new cases diagnosed each day, including the more infectious new variant(s). These are now recognised as being more deadly too. Hospitals in the US and the UK are in a bad way, that’s if you can get to a hospital. In the US Biden and Harris held a memorial service for those who died in this pandemic – now officially 414,000. Still, there is hope for the future – vaccines, and a new US President and administration.