On Inaugural Day, Kamala was the best Asian American among us. All day. Hooray.
As an Asian American of Filipino descent with a sense of history, I couldn’t keep my eyes off her as she graced my screen adorned in purple, or was that royal blue? It all depended on the light. It was enough to drive me crazy, until I realized that’s how it is in America these days.
We can all look at the same thing and perceive it all so differently.
We just need more light.
It was great just to see the TV commentators struggle to identify Kamala: Black, South Asian, Asian American, From Oakland, California, Howard alum (no love for UC Hastings Law?), mother an Indian immigrant, father from Jamaica. Oh, and let’s not forget, woman. She is the first woman to rise to veepness. Get all those in eloquently on first reference.
People had practice during the campaign. And admittedly, Kamala has always been a bit coy, taking a page from Obama, by not making things about race. Unless she has to, and then she’s always ready to smash all assumptions.
Like when presidential candidate Kamala staggered Joe Biden on busing in an early debate with the line “That little girl was me.”
But now she is his vice president–a snapshot of our diversity, the argument for the broadest coalition of forces that includes Asian roots near the top. And with a blended family? White husband, two stepchildren? Are you kidding me?
I’ve always believed the answer to all our racial problems would come when we embraced diversity fully and showed a real love interest in one another.
Disagree with Kamala as a politician all you want. She succeeds just by being. She’s the American metaphor as we strive for the more perfect union.
Because, let’s face it: In a 21st century America, a sea of all white men does not connote inclusion and unity.
Yes, but my friends on the Left still wonder how the heck did we end up with this retread Biden? And Harris? Was she really a reformer as California’s attorney general?
My friends on the Right who watch Fox News sent me a headline that said, “Joe Biden has been president for nine hours and 400,000 Americans are dead.”
Slightly unreasonable, considering they were casualties of the Trump Administration, not to mention the five who died after an attack on the Capitol, and all the people of color traumatized after four years of chaos and racial pain.
It doesn’t take hours to notice how Biden and Harris are the antidotes to our post-Trumpatic-stress.
In Biden’s first executive orders we saw an end to the Muslim travel ban; a strengthened DACA; a pause in deportations; the end of funding to that border wall nonsense; and the affirmation that all people count in the Census, even non-citizens. It’s we the people. All of us, remember?
There are more good signs to come. A pathway to citizenship for 11 million people? The Statue of Liberty is dancing again.
The sigh of relief from the millions of people of color impacted by it all could’ve been an inaugural hurricane.
As the flag flies, the winds are blowing our way again.
POMP AND POLICY
We needed yesterday’s pomp to offset the anxiety of Jan. 6.
25,000 troops don’t get put into place because all is well in our democracy.
And it worked. The forces of insurrection realized the shame of their racist, exclusionary, white supremacist ideas and mostly stayed hidden, festering somewhere. Mar-A-Lago? Many have already been arrested and charged.
It’s hard to believe they desecrated the same halls that we saw on TV. I recalled walking those same halls and that stepped platform when I covered previous inaugurals. This week, it was practically back to normal.
And that’s problematic.
This is the very thing people hate and detest about our political class. We hear them fight. But then we see them get along? They are even friends. That’s not the way it is in pro wrestling.
After the ceremonies, when Biden and Harris moved inside the Capitol to receive gifts, it may have seemed strange for some to see Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), last week the Senate majority leader, this week the minority leader, and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), last week the leader who opposed certifying the election results, this week smiling and cordial. Both of them offered gifts to the new president and vice president that didn’t include a dagger to the back.
But that’s because democracy isn’t a Marvel comic book with heroes and villains. It’s real people acting with maturity and civility. They are leaders.
We haven’t had much of that in some time.
It’s the reason people say politics is “show business for ugly people.” They see the layer of fake wonky glam that covers up real intentions and declare it all duplicitous. And then beyond hair and makeup, we’ve had the last four years of lies. Two-facedness? How about more than 30,000 lies by one man alone?
Trump didn’t like wearing a mask—not for Covid—but maybe to him, his 30,000 lies were mask enough.
But that is the likely reason that Joe Biden is the best leader for these times. He’s been hated and loved through the decades. But he’s also changed and evolved, mostly for the good. When I was a talk host in Washington, DC, during the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings, Biden was considered a villain.
Not a Ted Cruz villain, mind you. Caught on camera lurking on the platform, Cruz is the man who led the charge in the Senate to block certification of the election. His was the “soft coup” that failed. He is the insurrectionists’ man. What should be his fate?
Biden, a Catholic who started the day at Mass, knows the virtue of loving one’s enemy. Maybe it takes the maturity of a 78-year-old.
It’s not easy. But it’s the only way you get to that goal of love. That’s still the true object of politics, not the division and rancor of a zero sum landscape of winners and losers.
That made Biden’s speech memorable, filled with lines such as: “We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue.”
But let’s not forget that Biden is like the creamy white filling of a unique political cookie, the flip side of both Obama and now Harris.
If our country is in a political abyss, Biden knows the way out, and at least is tilting forward.
POLICY AND POETRY
But will we enlarge our sources of information and not get siloed and tricked by some high-tech algorithm? The lede in a recent New York Times article on QAnon, the conspiracy-based organization that saw Trump as super-hero and continued to spread lies even on inauguration day, showcased one “Harvard-educated” believer. Yes, even “smart” people can fall prey to conspiracies.
But not your friendly Harvard-educated scribe.
Nor another one who graced the inaugural stage and was as much a force of change as Joe Biden and Harris.
I was looking forward to the National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman’s poem. My old college roommate was so proud, he texted me, “She was in Leverett House too!”
She was also at age 22 perhaps the only young person on that stage not related to the principals.
Gorman was there to speak her truth, our truth, which she said defined our purpose: “To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man. And so we lift our gaze as not 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 and we each offer arms to one another. We seek harm to none and harmony for all. Let the globe, if nothing else say this is true.”
In an America left truth-challenged by the previous White House occupant, it was the poke we needed at an inaugural.
It was also a poem that was written after Jan. 6. “We’ve seen a forest that would shatter our nation, rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy. And this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can be periodically delayed. It can never be permanently defeated,” then she asked, “How could catastrophe, possibly prevail over us?”
It set up the big finish:
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 golden hills of the West, we will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution, we will rise from the lake rimmed cities of the mid- western states, we will rise from the sunbaked south, we will rebuild, reconcile and recover and every known nook of our nation in every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful will emerge battered and beautiful when they come as we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid, the new dawn balloons, as we free it, for there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we are brave enough to be it.
It was as if Gorman picked up a torch from the elder political statesmen around her and held it up for all. It was not merely a bipartisan call, but a call beyond that, to see all of America.
It was an all-inclusive embrace of the country we have become– a fitting beginning for a diverse administration where Kamala is the veep in royal blue or purple, depending on the light.
That’s where we come in. We are the light.