I’m A Long Way from Home (final part)

THE sun shone on Washington DC the day of the inauguration.

I know it’s an old cliché, but that’s how it felt to many Americans. Colleagues and friends spoke about how relieved they were, how they could breathe again, how they were even sleeping better! How perhaps this might be a new beginning.

It was refreshing to see Madame Vice-President, the first female, and of both African and Indian descent, escorted onto the steps of the Capitol by none other than the brave police officer who the week before had offered himself as a decoy to a bloodthirsty mob.

With a nod to women’s suffrage there was much purple in the clothing on display, and, unlike the French haute couture flaunted by the Trumps and their entourage I found it interesting to discover the six most important men and women on the dais, all wore clothing by American designers. (Hmmm, ‘America First’?)

There are still conspiracists hiding in the dark web. Only today I listened to an NPR program that described how Qannon members were convinced the entire inauguration was a huge deception and that Trump had planned this all along. He would remain President and the reason for the inauguration was to bring the evil Bill Clinton and Barak Obama to the Capitol so that they and other leading Democrats and traitorous anti-Trump Republicans could be publicly executed on worldwide television.

I know, insane! But there are some real crazies around.

It seems these people were quite disappointed and felt as if they had been led down the garden path when none of this transpired!

As a musician I have always paid particular attention to the music that is performed at any important event.

Though some may have wondered at the choice and disparity of the performers (other than, of course, the US Marine Band), they seemed to reflect that feeling of a refreshed and vibrant country ready to pick up the gauntlet of the last four years that had been so rudely thrown at its feet.

Say what you will about the previous administration, if it has done nothing else, it has made America look in the mirror.

Differences in the disciplines of the performers embraced the creative and cultural differences of the country, and reflected the USA’s motto, “E pluribus unum”

The exuberant and over the top dress of Lady Gaga in the colors of the Stars and Stripes, resplendent with an enormous golden dove broach, and looking like a modern day version of Lady Liberty, seemed to announce the arrival of a longed and hoped for peaceful future. Her rendition of the National Anthem reflected the same. Not the flowery long drawn out funereal version so often heard at sporting events but a reasonable and established 88 BPM, and unusually, in perhaps a nod to a fresh perspective, it began in hymn like quadruple time before ending in the traditional triple.

“Let’s get Loud”, Jennifer Lopez, with another gesture to the suffragettes of the past and todays group of young progressive congresswomen often referred to as ‘The Squad’, appeared in white and interestingly began with Woody Guthrie’s protest song “This Land is My Land, written after the Great Depression as a retort to ‘God Bless America’. She transitioned into the descriptively poetic and much loved ‘America the Beautiful’. But she did not leave the stage before speaking to an important segment of a divided country separated by their own language, saying; “Una nación, bajo Dios, indivisible, con libertad y justicia para todos,”, repeating a part of the already spoken, andsigned, Pledge of Allegiance: “One nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”

In his neat but ordinary clothes Country music’s Garth Brooks made sure his appearance did not deflect the focus away from ‘Amazing Grace’. Symbolically a black spiritual; it is a hymn written by a white slaver turned clergy man after his deliverance from a tempest during a crossing in his Guineaman.

Many challenges ahead for President Biden

President Biden has many challenges ahead. He has already issued 21 executive orders in his first week. Though most of these are at long last Covid related, or undo those of his predecessor, such as rescinding oil drilling and mineral mining licenses on federally protected land and rejoining the WHO and the Paris Climate Agreement. (You can’t change the club rules if you are not a member!).

Of course the most obvious and immediate task for Joe Biden is addressing the pandemic. He has invoked the Defense Production Act so as to insure there are enough needles, syringes, N95 masks and other PPE to get the vaccine into arms and made a promise that we will have 100 million shots in his first 100 days. With another 200 million to be distributed through the summer. He’s probably going to deliver on that promise as well, averaging 1.27 million vaccinations a day since he took office.

After Covid-19 I believe the three greatest challenges facing the new administration are wealth inequality, health care and systematic racism. The three are inextricably linked.

Biden’s choice for his cabinet reflects the diversity of the country: the first black man as Secretary of Defense, a black woman for Housing and Urban Development, a black man for the EPA, the first female Secretary of the Treasury, the first LGBTQ cabinet member as Secretary of Transportation, Latinos as Secretary of Education, of Health and Human Services and of Homeland Security, the first woman as Director of National Intelligence, and the first trans person as assistant Sec. of Health. Almost half of his selections are woman. It’s a start.

The inauguration evening concert reiterated the hopefulness of the morning with many artists looking to the future. Bruce Springsteen opened with “Land of Hope and Dreams”, “Tomorrow there’ll be sunshine, and all this darkness past’. John Legend sang Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me’.The Foo Fighters “Times Like These” “I’m a new day rising, I’m a brand new sky to hang the stars upon tonight”.

Jon Bon Jovi took us back to my beginning cliché and his cover of a well-known ballad. We watched as Bon Jovi, sitting on a dock in Miami, and with it rising behind him, exclaimed “Here Comes The Sun”

“And I say it’s alright.”

Read Part I of ‘Letter From America’ here

Read Part II of ‘Letter to America’ here

Woodmead Halls

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