Here, on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, and into
Your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
On the Pulse of Morning, Maya Angelou’s 1993 inaugural poem
Only four American presidents—John F. Kennedy in 1961, Bill Clinton in 1993 and 1997, Barack Obama in 2009 and 2013, and Joe Biden in 2021—have had poets read at their inaugurations. It’s no accident they’re all Democrats.
I am having complicated feelings watching snippets of the inauguration today. On one hand, I feel a sense of relief that reasonable and highly competent people are in charge of the government. But on the other, I know this doesn’t mean that things are magically fixed or that I won’t be dismayed by some of the decisions made by this new regime.
I am also baffled by the Democratic party’s insistence on aligning itself with celebrity culture. We are in a pandemic. Is it an award show or are an important transition of power? Do we need the spectacle of famous people’s guest appearances at the inauguration? What part of democracy is bolstered by these optics? What is so essential about their presence at a time where the rest of the world is asked to stay home to save lives? What part of democracy is bolstered by these optics?
I am asking myself all these questions and wrestling with the implications. I wonder if the people in charge of the government ask themselves these questions.
C’est compliqué as my people say.
Witnessing history is so disarming especially right now. I knew it was going to happen but watching Justice Sonia Sotomayor administer the oath of office to Vice President Kamala Harris was the highlight of the morning. What a remarkable moment.
I can appreciate the power of that moment and also remember that Kamala Harris was only the second Black woman elected to the U.S. Senate. The first was Carol Moseley Braun who was only elected in 1992. Jesse Helms used to sing Dixie when Carol Mosley Braun was around him in the Senate building.
We now have a woman of Jamaican and South Asian descent as Vice President but once again there are no Black women in the Senate. Progress is complicated and maddening sometimes.
Unclench. Exhale. Stay vigilant. See you Saturday