That says it for me. Great relief, writ small. How do we feel safe again after the anxiety of the last four years? The inauguration of Joe Biden and the restoration of a functioning government feel right, but it will take a little time to feel good. Especially while we negotiate our way through the 12th month of a savage pandemic.
I witnessed the turn from darkness to light, from crazy to sane, from chaos to civility. Like you, I watched on TV as the president took the oath, as Lady Gaga sang and as poet Amanda Gorman sealed the deal. Still, this doesn’t feel like jubilation to me. If feels like I just stopped banging my head against the wall. The agony is ebbing, but there’s a dull pain that will take some time to resolve.
Right now, the feeling that eclipses all others is relief. Since Jan. 20, I haven’t gone to sleep watching the news or worried my way through a fitful night. Briefly, I tuned in to the news around 9 p.m. on Inauguration Day. Biden was still president. Nine hours had passed since the swearing-in, and no one had stormed the Capitol. The day went according to plans.
One wonders what the news outlets will rant about now. How will they be relevant without the sugar high of the former president? The press lives by “if it bleeds, it leads,” and we had plenty of bleeding, from the stolen migrant children at our borders to the hundreds of thousands of friends and neighbors dying of Covid-19. How do we cover a regular presidency, which makes the usual kinds of mistakes and actually functions as an administrative body? Will there be an audience for proposed infrastructure legislation and state dinners for visiting dignitaries?
The media is challenged to get past the low-hanging fruit like Kellyanne Conway weaving her awful webs, Michael Cohen spilling his secrets, Ivanka, Jared, Giuliani and Melania the Silent. Trump’s goon squad gathered all the available light. The mean-spirited tweets and corrupt actions of so many people around the former president provided grist for the media every minute of every day of the past four years. How do we and the news industry get accustomed to calm and quiet at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.? Admittedly, something is lost, like sensationalism and melodrama; the grinding of the wheels of respectable government may not make for bold headlines.
I hope the journalists who helped save this country with their relentless pursuit of the truth will rise to the moment and continue to expose the bad guys who always rise to the moment, and point to success where they find it.
This column, over the past four years, has strayed from usual weekly territory, which is hyper-local. To me, Trump and Covid are as local as stories can get, changing the DNA of our lives. To finesse the constraint of writing once a week, I sometimes post something especially timely on Facebook.
On the night of the inauguration, I wrote this:
“So, what’s the trick here? A sane, accomplished rock-solid man elected President. A Black woman with Indian parentage elected Vice President. A heartfelt inauguration speech promising to keep us safe and true to democratic values. A blast of first-day executive orders undoing some of the malicious initiatives of the former administration. A press conference at the end of the day, a real press conference in the White House briefing room by someone who says she will tell us the truth. When can we believe this is all true? It’s so much goodness, all at once. It will take some time to accommodate to the change.”
Think of the ground shifting under our feet as Trump & Co. were swept into office, primed for action, taking axes and shovels to our country, fracturing our democracy and burying the ideals that had grounded us for 240 years. For four years, many of us have lived with serious anxiety and stress. Our president did not help us or protect us or work at his job to keep this country and its people safe.
It changed last Wednesday, but we need a moment to gather ourselves together for the serious recovery work ahead. It’s still midwinter. But, every day, there is more light. Looking forward to hallelujah, writ large.
Copyright 2021 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.