- Glenn Sonnenberg
Musings from the Bunker 1/21/20
Good morning and happy first full day of the Biden administration,
SUMMING IT UP
First, a few observations from friends:
From a friend who’s a naturalized citizen: “I cried my eyes out and today was as emotional as the day I became a citizen.”
From an old friend from college, “Finally, time to look forward! Daunting tasks, but finally prepared to take them on. I'm taking off from work to follow the Inauguration. My battered soul needs the positivity."
And from a friend in Africa, “Congratulations upon your incredible President H.E. Joe Biden. Just enjoyed watching his speech, which was inspiring and emotionally touching to me. I feel such a blessing for your nation. God bless you all Americans.”
A RETURN TO NORMALCY
What did it feel like to me? It felt normal. And yet it felt awe inspiring. It felt comfortable and familiar. It felt like something we had witnessed before, that calls to mind the speeches, poetry, and pageantry of past inaugurations—the ones we witnessed and the ones we can see in sepia photographs. Seeing these people on the steps of the capitol that are the very steps from which Abraham Lincoln spoke gave me a sense of calm and belief that things were going to be all right—not today but in time.
As for Joe Biden, he feels normal and familiar as well. Sure a man of a few million words and prone to verbal gaffes, but a hard-working, earnest, patriotic man with more vision than people will give him credit for. A man with the bravery and fortitude to withstand profound personal loss, to make tough decisions—not always right but always thoughtful—in 47 years of public service. A man brave enough—wise enough—to choose as a running mate the one opponent in the primaries who was toughest on him—willing to forgive and forget for the greater good. A man beloved by Barack Obama and George W. Bush, a man who seems content with who he is and without the need to remind us each and every day how great he may think he is.
His speech was normal. Not packed with great poetry throughout but punctuated with clear “down home” language that speaks of hard work, sacrifice and dedication—something that will required of all of us and our representatives in the coming years.
I feel as if Joe Biden’s words this morning were like the first dose of an antibiotic to cure us of what ails us (notice the reference is to bacteria and not virus…!). What he said this morning is the beginning of a process that will be long, arduous, difficult, but I believe ultimately successful. It will take many doses. It will require the collective efforts of many people—including the federal government, states, localities, nonprofits, higher education, corporations, peace officers, and healthcare workers.
What a contrast from the words of “American carnage” four years ago to words of hope, hard work, common purpose, and ideals, including:
“Hear me out as we move forward; take a measure of my heart.”
“Disagreement must not yield to disunion.”
“I will fight as hard for people who did not support me as for those who did.”
“I give you my word; I’ll always level with you.”
“…thinking not of power but of possibilities.”
I appreciate how many times President Biden invoked the words “truth” and “facts” and calling out lies. Renewing a commitment to truth and facts will be one of the battles of our times. It seems remarkable but it also is…well…true…
Agree with her or disagree with her. You can say she’s too liberal or was too tough a prosecutor. Hard to see how both of these criticisms can simultaneously be true, which perhaps belies that neither is true. Perhaps she is the woman of the moment, the personification of the American dream. A woman, Black, Asian, married to a Jew, mixed family. A first in so many ways to hold national office.
THE POMP AND CEREMONY
What a moving and historic display—in the midst of a pandemic and a virtual lock-down of the Capitol. The National Anthem sounded like a completely different tune when sung by Lady Gaga. What a set of pipes, what emotion, what soaring notes. Not to be outdone, Jennifer Lopez was equally as moving.
The parade of the former presidents and assorted dignitaries spoke volumes. It was particularly touching to see former political rivals Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, together on one stage—united. Interesting to hear that George Bush referred to James Clyburn a “savior” for his endorsement of Biden at the time of the South Carolina primary. I will confess to more than a little moisture in my eyes…
GOODBYE AND GOOD RIDDANCE
As we bid adieu to Mr. Trump, I couldn’t get the Spiro Agnew’s words out of my head that seems such a perfect description of this scoundrel who besmirched this nation’s reputation and diminished his institutions, all while declaring war on so many and so much: he truly has been a “nattering nabob of negativity.”
JOSH HAWLEY—NO LEVEL IS TOO LOW
Amidst all the ceremony and optimism, we must also ponder the challenges ahead. Let’s remember the bitter political fights that will stand in Joe Biden’s way. And leave it to none other than the insurrectionist and national embarrassment, the traitor of the TRUE steal that was stopped, Josh Hawley, to toss the first grenade. Yesterday he indicated the expedited path for Senate confirmation of nominees to important strategic posts would be interrupted by his objection to fast-tracking the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas to critical position Secretary of Homeland Security because Mayorkas had not “adequately explained how he will enforce federal law and secure the southern border given President-elect Biden’s promise to roll back major enforcement and security measures.” What a shameless political hack. As I rest more easily tonight knowing that I don’t have to fear reading the news in the morning for the latest unmentionable behavior of the Dear Leader, I realize that Mr. Hawley and Mr. Cruz will do their best to race for the bottom for the next four years.
But to happier things… Wow. Does anyone else feel just a tad inadequate while watching this young poet—the youngest inaugural poet ever—read her brilliant and monumental poem to the nation? While few can forget Robert Frost and Maya Angelou and their inauguration speeches, this one struck me as superior to those, if only in the timeliness and the attachment to the moment. It spoke not only to familiar themes of the nation, its history, its challenges, and the majesty of the moment but also to the trials and tribulations of the recent weeks. Part poem, part speech, part call to action and part sermon, this young woman captured the emotions many of us have felt as we have witnessed the unthinkable time and again. Delivered perfectly, articulately, and emotionally, it was breathtaking. Perhaps I’ll include The Hill We Climb this Saturday. In the meantime, a few words:
We’ve seen a force that would shatter
Our nation rather than share it,
Would destroy our country if it meant
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be
It can never be permanently defeated.
FEEL GOOD STUFF
On this day of hope and happiness, let’s conclude on a positive note. I read two great articles last week about wonderful escapes from the ennui and anxiety of the pandemic. One is a great article in the New York Times about a woman who advertised on the Nextdoor app to find someone to play catch with her husband. She ended up attracting ten people to come to a local park, just to play catch. People of various ages emerged from their bunkers and got to meet someone new, doing something very American and wholesome. Quite a heartwarming story. Those of us who remember catch with fathers, sons, cousins and friends can relate that this simple act is one so visceral that it remains among our deepest memories of companionship and love.
The other article was about the TV show Ted Lasso, the really funny and wholesome show about an American football coach who relocates to England to manage a Premier League Soccer team that’s headed nowhere. “Ties and no playoffs? Why do you even do this?” and “I think I literally have a better understanding who killed Kennedy than what is offside.” Andrea and I loved it. It has been something of a phenomenon. Jason Sudeikis plays the part of the hapless hero perfectly. We need a lot more wholesome these days!
The Republic survived. Onward to better days!