Just a few days ago, on Jan. 20, a brilliant sunshine welcomed the new regime. Under heavy security—certainly stronger than the laxed forces that allowed the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol—Joe Biden and Kamala Harris became President and Vice President of this country.
There was a collective sigh of relief from at least half of the population of the country. The Trump regime was over. The page could be turned.
The attention went to the inspirational poetry of Amanda Gorman, a young African American woman, or to the voices and the fashionable clothing exhibited by Lady Gaga and Kamala Harris.
More relevant, of course, was the fact that Kamala Harris is the first person of a color, other than white, to occupy the Vice Presidency. A position that places Harris “a heartbeat away from becoming the most powerful person on Earth.”
Interestingly enough, the person who has elicited more attention (or more “memes” on social media) than anyone, was Bernie Sanders.
“Uncle Bernie,” the twice-trampled Democratic Socialist, by simply sitting there, wearing some cool wool mittens, perhaps created the most eloquent reminder of what could have been. What could have been if more progressive platforms were given a chance to succeed in this country.
I do not mean to rain on this parade. I also feel happy that Trump has momentarily retired to his headquarters on Mar-o-Lago. Although I feel sorry for those employees, with or without documents, who work for him on his Miami mansion.
I confess to a strong ambivalence. On the one hand, yes, the witch is gone. That is good. On the other hand, will the hoped-for changes really take place?
In 2008, when Barak Obama was first elected, I remember going out for a ride in the Mission. The happiness was palpable.
More than the happy relief elicited by the Biden/Harris triumph of 2020, Obama’s victory in 2008 was received as the dawn of a true change in the U.S. Just about everyone waved various sizes of US flags.
A dormant sense of patriotism appeared to wake up. The country had elected a Black President. The immediate future seemed bright. It was the dawn of the age of the Techies and the hipsters.
The election of Obama was hailed as a sign that this country had entered a time rapidly baptized as Post Racism.
Really? Just like that?
That night in 2008, I worried. Somehow, although that election was cause for a celebration, I felt that it was just the beginning of a long road for the U.S. Hopefully, a road that would lead it to becoming a better society, deserving of its own PR as “the best country in the world.”
Of course, it was not to be. The events of the last years have shown that this country is far from achieving what it might sometime become.
After this election in 2020, I am still worried.
The 1 percent still controls the economy (and just about everything else), banks are deemed more valuable than people (“too big to fail,” said Obama), wars and intimidation are still “The American Way,” (see Honduras, Libya, Venezuela, Cuba, Iraq, Palestine) racism is in the air we breathe, Black Lives do not matter as “regular” lives do and, a couple of weeks ago, fascism seemed to be knocking on our front door. Sometimes, the knocking seemed to be coming from inside our homes. It was. It is.
The U.S. believes its own propaganda, in all aspects of its life. That is dangerous. Confusing. Unreal. Unhealthy.
Politically and economically, the U.S. claims to be the best system in the world, never mind the existing poverty levels and the fact that most people in this country live check to check.
The U.S. can afford to provide free education and health to its entire population, but it refuses to do so, unlike many of its so-called First-World allies. Again, it is that rancid 1 percent that gets in the way. It’s not “the American Way.” Not yet.
Ah. “The American Way.”
Mike Pompeo, the outgoing Secretary of State, a descendant of Italian immigrants, referred to it this past week in a tweet: “Woke-ism, multiculturalism, all the -isms — they’re not who America is. They distort our glorious founding and what this country is all about. Our enemies stoke these divisions because they know they make us weaker.”
Perhaps is there where the roots of all problems lie. This country is in the midst of a profound demographic change, where the “traditional” (read White, or European American) population is becoming, horror of horrors, a minority group. “What if ‘they’ treat ‘us’ the way we have treated them for so long? What about our long-held privileges?”
I taught multicultural theater for over 25 years, at San Francisco State University. In the process, we discovered many wonderful possibilities in the search for a script where we could all belong, where all participants could feel represented and respected, and a multicultural creative collaboration was the key.
I believe, most fervently, opposite to what Mister Pompeo said. That the acceptance and promotion of multiculturalism is what can make this country, any country, truly strong and healthy.
Can this new government help this country create a new normal? Can “the American way” become a truly inclusive, multiethnic, socially and economically responsible new reality? Can the U.S. truly promote democracy, beginning with its own internal reality? Can the U.S. stay away from interfering in the lives of the countries that share the American continent?
Let us hope so. Let us fight for that to happen.