01.27.21
Steven Heller | Opinions

Pinch Me! 
Is it Really Over?



The morning after inauguration was like the arrival of spring in Walt Disney’s Bambi. The snow starts to melt, the crocus flowers bloom, and the forest is reborn. That first moment upon hearing the “voice of god” announcer say “President Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. and Vice President Kamala Devi Harris” evoked emotions reminiscent of when Paris and Rome were liberated by the Allies, John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama were elected, the Apollo 11 astronauts landed on the moon, Nixon resigned, the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, and yes, when my son was born.

The pomp and circumstance were toned down yet the sounds of freedom were restored and amplified. I felt as though a ten-ton truck of toxic waste had been lifted off my shoulders. After four years of waking up at all hours in cold-sweats dreading America’s future now sanity and hope have returned. After 48 months, of anticipating the worst, it appears that the United States survived, although rattled by PTSD (Post Trump Stress Disorder).

How could anyone produce creative design, art, or anything during such an unsettlingly stressful period? I needed to believe there was an end in sight — in my lifetime — and that democracy could hold on in the interim. The evidence of the former incumbent’s criminality and the consequences of his actions coursed through our institutions, inflicting damage to the nation, and infecting its soul.

Liberation has specific touchstones. Some will forever be remembered. These stand out today: Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman wearing a bright yellow coat and red hairband set against the blue carpet on the steps of the Capitol while reading her brilliant poem, “The Hill We Climb”. The gold microphone Lady Gaga held as she soulfully sang our national anthem. Jennifer Lopez belting out a melody of Woody Guthrie’s anti-fascist anthem “This Land is Our Land” and “America The Beautiful”, Garth Brooks’ rendition of the empowering “Amazing Grace”, and let’s never forget the guy who sanitized the podium after each speaker.

The reviewing stand had an appropriately smaller number guests owing to virus protocols (at least it wasn’t conducted on Zoom). So, if the former incumbent is compelled to compare his headcount numbers, he wins — but there was no Covid-spread.

There was, however, something humbling about the inauguration festivities.

Rather than endangering the celebrants, art projects were conceived to underscore the nation’s grandeur while limiting exposure to the virus. The National Mall, designed with 200,000 flags to symbolize the mass of at-risk visitors and represent all 50 states and five U.S. territories, was enough to make anyone proud. Undaunted by strict precautions, replacing the traditional post-inauguration parties was a modest but no less inspiring TV spectacular, “Celebrating America” that ended with a jubilant fireworks finale, created by Chicago-based Strictly FX, all to honor the peaceful transition of power to President Biden and Vice President Harris.

I am grateful to all that those who helped democracy prevail as its nemesis returned back to the swamp.




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