Joe Biden’s inaugural address was a self-assurance that the US is still working. And an alternative to the white ethno-nationalism of recent years.
BERLIN taz | It was in the anticipated call for unity that Joe Biden used his inaugural address as newly sworn president. No word came up as often in his approximately 20-minute speech as “unity” and “united”. Biden mentioned practically no political plans, he did not talk about the first 100 days, about infrastructure programs or corona aid.
What at other times would have been a just cheesy how-great-is-America speech was on that day, just hours after Donald Trump left the White House and the US capital that morning, an admission of how much they did have shaken the foundations of American democracy in recent years.
There is much to be repaired, restored, and healed, Biden said. Political extremism and white supremacy – the idea of white supremacy – will be defeated. With racism, inequality and the pandemic, there are major challenges. And: lies spread out of greed for power and profit must be fought, the truth helped to break through.
The speech, just like the accompanying words of the other speakers and the young black poet Amanda Gorman afterwards, were clearly under the impression of the riots on January 6th, when a mob heated up by President Trump just that tribune and the halls of the Capitol stormed into Washington where the inauguration was now taking place. The mob “believed that they could use violence to silence the will of the people. But that didn’t happen, and it won’t happen, not today, not tomorrow, never! ”Shouted Biden. Democracy prevailed.
Minute of silence in the inaugural speech
Biden described the times in which he took office as a “cascade of crises”: division, economic crisis, pandemic. The solution he offered almost pleadingly: Unity, unity. Not every difference of opinion should lead to war among each other, and the implementation of a political program should not leave a trail of destruction. Biden talked about Trump, but never mentioned him.
The speech was like reassurance that the US is still working. And the attempt to define “America” – with a show of multicultural, multiethnic, cosmopolitan patriotism as an alternative to the white “America First” ethno-nationalism of the last four years.
You can find it cheesy when Puerto Rican-born Jennifer Lopez sings “This land is your land”, the old song by hobo folk singer Woody Guthrie – but the signal it was meant to set was strong. And then in her medley she exclaimed “justicia para todos!” In Spanish, justice for all!
Biden made it more than clear that he intends to deal with the corona pandemic in a fundamentally different way than his predecessor. And he was probably the first President to ask for a minute’s silence in his inaugural address, this moment of departure and joy for his own supporters – a silent prayer for the more than 400,000 Americans who have so far been involved in connection with Covid -19 died, more than in all of World War II.
The historic moment was, without a doubt, the swearing in of the first black Asian-American female Vice President, Kamala Harris. And the introduction of the first “second gentleman”, her husband Douglas Emhoff. Whenever this was pointed out, great cheers broke out in the stands, where the usual dignitaries, members of Congress and ex-presidents sat.
Donald Trump had canceled his participation and thus again broke with a tradition of the peaceful transfer of power from one government to the next. But his Vice President Mike Pence and his wife had turned up. They stood a little lost in a corner of the stands, but applauded when his successor was sworn in. And for a brief moment you could believe that the healing that Joe Biden is committed to might work.
It, this moment, won’t last long. “We will return in some form,” Trump said that morning at the Andrews military airfield in Maryland near Washington when he left the capital. He should be right.