By DIANE PHILLIPS
ON Wednesday, a huge weight was lifted off the shoulders of the world. Donald Trump left Washington.
As the chopper carrying the most divisive president in US history lifted off the ground, it was almost as though we were free to breathe again.
I never expected the sensation to be so physical nor the sense of freedom so palpable.
It was one of many surprises of Inauguration Day 2021 that will be etched in memory. The sense of renewal, of hope, of promised unity was restored, not just in America or for Americans, but for people around the world who felt like, finally, America could get back to being America again.
Gone was the man who, despite some successes, including standing up to China, spread lies daily on a foghorn called Twitter.
Gone was the commander-in-hate who incited a riot on January 6, urging followers to believe his most recent lie that the election was stolen from him and he was counting on their action to take it back.
Gone was the man who endorsed white supremacy by his silence when it reared its ugly head in churches and at ceremonies. Gone was the man with blood on his hands who scoffed at mask-wearing, social distancing and other warnings by experts and lied to his fellow Americans, promising them they were winning the war against COVID even as the 400,000th victim lost his life.
That sense of relief at the departure of the man who will probably go down as the worst president in US history was complemented by a feeling as close to jubilation as you can get when talking about politics.
Watching the inauguration of the 46th President of the United States, Joseph R. Biden, renewed and restored faith in the democratic process, in what Ronald Reagan said in 1981 was the “miracle” that has occurred every four years without fail since George Washington was President. It was not just black America that proved Martin Luther King right about the ability to overcome. America itself said we shall overcome and they did and the world watched and applauded with lifted hearts and buoyed spirits.
In my small office, we watched the entire procedure, the arrival of former Presidents and spouses, the music, the good humour of mistress of ceremonies Amy Klobuchar, the reprieving of a shred of legacy by Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell, the swearing-in ceremony, the many tender moments.
In our office with four women and one young man, all the women wore pearls in honour of Sen. Kamala Harris, now Vice President Harris. With CNN and NBC on our monitors, we tried to work or fit work in between a valiant speech or a dramatic performance but every time there was another reason to celebrate, we all gathered around one screen or another, masks still on, reminding ourselves to distance when we all wanted to jump and hug and laugh and cry.
We clapped so loud when Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks performed we thought our hands would hurt. Then we clapped even louder when national youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman urged us to “be the light” and we were spellbound when the new President delivered what is perhaps the best and the most badly needed positive inauguration speech in the annals of American politics.
There was one detail we did not focus on until later when we looked back at the images and realized that the new President wore a purple tie and the Vice President wore a shade of purple. The Colour Purple, the name of a book by Alice Walker about a nearly-broken girl who is the victim of incest and all the bad that life can dish out to a poor black child in the Deep South, took on new meaning. The colour purple on this inauguration day ushering in a new and welcomed era in American history symbolized the blending of Republican red and Democratic blue.
On this day, January 20, 2021, the colour purple took on new meaning, unity. It was the first promise Mr. Biden kept, even before he was sworn in as President. That was a good signal, Mr. President. No, a great signal. We in The Bahamas are rooting for you, just like former President Barack Obama said. Keep the purple flowing.
It’s still not time to celebrate
The Bahamas was included in a list published this week of countries winning the battle against COVID. The website endcoronavirus.org divided countries into three categories, those winning the battle, those nearly there and those that need to take action.
The Bahamas with 8075 cases since the start and nine new cases on January 20 was one of only 27 countries in the world to make the winning list. Most countries, including the US, fell into the need to take action category. The US has suffered 24,434,283 cases since the start with 193,617 new cases on the same day that The Bahamas was repeating its single digit performance.
There was one day in the past week when The Bahamas totalled minus 1, a case that was reclassified from the previous day and no new cases at all.
Winning one battle, but are we losing another? How long can we hold on?
Congratulations to the health and medical experts and to a government that heeded their advice to control the spread of COVID-19 in a country whose population is plagued by co-moborbidities and whose health care system could have been easily overwhelmed. But the cost to economic well-being is evident in the photos of downtown Nassau and in Grand Bahama. Boarded up doors, shuttered shops and papered-over windows, locked arcades and empty storefronts, For Rent signs and roll-downs that don’t open at what should be the start of another business day are outnumbering the retail stores still open for a business on a daily basis.
Thank you, once again, to John Bull for your presence and your perseverance and to fine stores like Coin of the Realm. Downtown Nassau will rebound.
Sometimes, it’s just hard to hold your breath for as long as it takes to stay alive.