Our long national nightmare is over. A presidency that began with the Big Lie that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the US and, therefore, was an illegitimate president and ended with the Big Lie that Joe Biden stole the election is now confined to history. And history, we can rest assured, will not judge that presidency kindly.
I experienced a surge of patriotism that brought a tear to my eye at 11:48 this morning when Joe Biden put his hand on the Bible and gave the oath of office, finishing with the words, “so help me God.” It’s been a while since I’ve felt so good about my native land; as a lifelong student of American history, I have no illusions about American exceptionalism. I’ve been to Money, Mississippi, where 14-year-old Emmitt Till was lynched, his body tortured beyond recognition, one of the more than 4000 lynchings in our country since the Civil War. Black lives not mattering has a long history. I have visited Wounded Knee, perhaps the most iconic example of America’s failed policies toward our first Americans. I am aware of the deportation of Mexican-Americans, US citizens, from California during the depression years, and I am still reeling from the images of family separations in our own day on the US/Mexico border. And I’ve experienced firsthand the past four years of vicious demagoguery in the White House, culminating with the invasion of the Capitol by a hate-stoked mob. I get it: We are far from perfect.
And yet . . . something touched me today. To see the aged Joe Biden, with his proud Irish Catholic roots, and the youthful Kamala Harris, the equally proud daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, sworn in as the leaders of our country . . . well, I rejoiced. I was touched also by the pageantry, the music, the songs, the prayers, the speeches, and 22-year-old Amanda Gorman’s delightfully triumphant poem. This is America. This is who we are. This is our present; this is our future.
My patriotism will always remain tempered by the facts of history. But at least for today, I can say unequivocally: I am proud to be an American.