The Hill Biden Has To Climb

And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it
Somehow, we do it
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken
but simply unfinished
We the successors of a country and a time
Where a skinny Black girl
descended from slaves and raised by a single mother
can dream of becoming president
only to find herself reciting for one…
– Excerpt from The Hill We Climb
by Amanda Gorman

Gorman, female Black poet and activist, 22, read her passionate and disturbing poem, first penned on January 6, and then in a flash of sudden energy after the Capitol Hill occupation by Right-wing Trump supporters, at the inauguration of US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. She follows Elizabeth Alexander and Maya Angelou, who recited at the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

Amanda has painted a kaleidoscopic rainbow in response to the collective trauma of a polarised and divided nation. One American media organisation, sensing the emotional mood, has observed that Biden need not be flamboyant at all, or choose to be in the headlines for all the ‘wrong’ reasons like Donald Trump, but he should just do his work with a quiet, stoic and steadfast resilience, even if he is branded ‘boring’. And that is what the new president seems to be doing.

In one of his first speeches to his White House team, he categorically said: “If you’re ever working with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise you, I will fire you on the spot… On the spot. No ifs or buts. Everybody is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity. That’s been missing in a big way the last four years.”

He has been frank and honest. To his political aides he confessed that “I’m going to make mistakes. When I make them, I’ll acknowledge them and I’ll tell you and I’ll need your help to help me correct them…We’re not going to walk away, we’re going to take responsibility.”

So, what has been missing in a big way in the last four years was quickly rectified by some far-reaching decisions by the new President soon after he took office. These orders will have an eventful and long-term national and global impact in a world which is still struggling to cope with the pessimistic consequences of the pandemic.

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Among other important decisions, Biden overturned several retrograde and sectarian orders by Trump like withdrawal from the WHO and the ban on citizens of certain Muslim countries from entering American soil. He brought back expert virologist Anthony Fauci, who defied Trump’s juvenile denial of the deadly virus and was side-lined. Besides, his multi-cultural cabinet is full of various colours, creeds, and inherited histories from across the pluralist spectrum of America, with representation of secular and liberal experts, including talented women professionals.

Some from Indian origin have been taken in his team in key positions. Interestingly, two individuals in the Biden campaign, with alleged overseas RSS links, have not been accommodated. It should be noted that several eminent American citizens had petitioned Biden to be careful of individuals aligned with the BJP-RSS and their overseas allies in the US, who had followed the unprecedented call by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Howdy Modi rally in Houston in July 2020, with Trump as the chief guest: Abki baar Trump sarkar.

Witness certain path-breaking executive orders passed by Biden soon after he assumed office:

*Ties with WHO reinstated. A delegation led by Fauci will attend the 148th session of the WHO Executive Board to be held soon.

*Social distancing and compulsory mask for all in federal buildings and territory. A ‘100 Days Masking’ campaign to propagate masks across America. Indeed, Trump and his top aides and followers refused to wear masks.

*Trump tried to block the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme, under which immigrants brought to the US as children are protected. Biden passed an order to “preserve and fortify” DACA.

*The notorious wall along the Mexican border has been scrapped.

*The ‘Muslim ban’ has been revoked. Trump stopped citizens of certain Muslim and African countries from flying into America.

*The Trump administration’s move to prevent the census from counting undocumented immigrants has been revoked. Harsh immigration enforcement policies have been stopped.

*America has decided to re-join the Paris Agreement on climate change within 30 days.

Among other significant decisions, the controversial $9 billion Keystone XL pipeline project, which was opposed by indigenous communities and environmentalists, and was backed by Trump, has been cancelled. This has yet again triggered the protracted struggle in Dakota by indigenous communities of Standing Rock and Native Americans which peaked in 2016. They want the pipeline to be scrapped because it will destroy their homeland ecology.

Biden has asked the government to reinterpret the country’s Civil Rights Act so as to stop discrimination based on gender, colour, sex, religion and ethnicity. Trump administration’s 1776 Commission report, which aimed to promote ‘patriotic education’ in schools has been overruled. Historians had dubbed it as partisan political propaganda.

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Vermont Senator and socialist Bernie Sanders, with a huge following among the millennials, has been made the head of the Senate Budget Committee. Sanders has been campaigning for radical health reforms to help ordinary citizens and low-income groups, students’ loan waiver, big financial Covid relief for millions who have been rendered jobless, hungry, or, are facing acute economic crisis, among other radical reforms. He has been backed by young and progressive democrats like Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, among others.

The Vermont senator told the CNN that the Democrat-controlled federal government cannot wait “months and months” to pacify hardline Republicans who favour austerity measures. If Republicans refuse to back Biden’s $1.9 trillion opening relief proposal, Sanders has asserted that he is ready to use the budget reconciliation process to pass a coronavirus aid package and legislation.

In terms of foreign policy there are unconfirmed reports that the arms deals with Saudi Arabia might be frozen. This has been welcomed by some Democrats in the light of the abysmal humanitarian crisis in Yemen. He will surely rethink the Iran sanctions, which Obama overruled, and Trump brought back. While Jerusalem might stay as the new Israeli capital, the peace process might be restarted. On China, there will certainly be more strategic dialogue, and less rhetoric and posturing.

Meanwhile, Biden has also reversed another retrograde ban by Trump — transgender Americans can now join the military. The order said that all “qualified Americans can serve their country in uniform”.

Besides, as what is seen as a direct fall-out of the new freedom in the air, striking workers in Bronx, New York, captured national attention and got solid support from local communities. Around 1,400 members of the Teamsters Local 202 union walked off their jobs on January 17, demanding a $1 raise. They said that they were in the font-lines against all odds in difficult circumstances to feed New Yorkers during the pandemic, with the Hunts Point Market supplying about 60 per cent of the local supplies. After a one-week strike, they got the hike, and more.

Hence, truly, Amanda’s poem of infinite hope might not be only pure passion. In New York in this cold, it might be just one dollar or a bit more for the working classes, but her inspired poem is literally translating on the streets of America.

Can America Be United Again?

Donald Trump has lost, but he is not going anywhere and so soon, something that large sections of the mainstream media and half of American voters would want so desperately. He has got massive electoral support, almost 70 million plus votes, half of the American vote bank. He might be openly a racist, an overt and tacit patron of Rightwing fringe groups of white supremacism, a misogynist, sexist and an anti-immigrant, apart from being rather crass in his public conduct.

He might have decisively botched up the Covid emergency in his total denial in public and acceptance in private, as disclosed by a top journalist with whom he shared his views; and by denying masks and the universal danger of this pandemic, he might be singularly responsible for the spread of the epidemic. Almost 250,000 Americans have fallen to the pandemic.

And, yet, Trump is refusing to give way to the new president-elect, Joe Biden and his team, even in carving out an emergency response to the pandemic. On the contrary, he continues to call the poll results a fraud, something even some of his aides in the White House and many Republican leaders are not ready to accept.

Biden, in his victory speech, has emphasised that he stands for not a red or blue America but a United America, which is quite in contrast to the sectarian ‘ultra nationalist’ Trump slogan of ‘Make America Great Again’, which unconsciously reminds of the colonial era of White supremacy, the bloody and genocidal subjugation of the indigenous inhabitants and natives of this vast land by colonisers and missionaries, and the slave trade of Blacks and later their continued brutalisation even in the post-War scenario by the rabid Ku Klux Klan virus of white supremacy.

Biden especially said that he stands for all of America, including those who did not vote for him, acknowledging the tragic and bitter realism of a socially divided and psychology wounded country, which might take years to overcome the fissures and hostilities entrenched after the short Trump era of four years.

Indeed, as the The New Yorker reported, Biden asked for an end to “this grim era of demonization…” “He stressed that, in choosing him, a majority of Americans opted to “marshal the forces of decency and the forces of fairness. To marshal the forces of science and the forces of hope”— the forces of everything good, reliable, and familiar that can help us shake the feeling of living in an unstable and unrelentingly dark reality. Biden promised to “restore the soul of America”.

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Surely, America is in a crisis. Despite the upset victory of the Democrats in certain red states like Arizona and Georgia, and the close margin of the final vote count, the vast white countryside, especially the uneducated white working class, both men and women, seemed to have gone along with Trump. So has, surprisingly, a sizeable number of Hispanics, especially Cubans who hate communists and who got sold yet again on the Trump slogan that socialists and the Left are out to take over America. Trump has repeatedly drummed it in the social media that the Left has taken over the Democrats and America is going Left. So much so, some Democrats too have done a kind of campaign that it is because of the progressives led by Bernie Sanders, and others like Rep Alexandria Ocasi0-Cortez and ‘the squad’ of four radical, progressive and emerging women leaders, among others, that the Biden campaign suffered in some states.

Reports from the ground affirm that nothing can be further from the truth, and that it was basically the Sanders, and progressives’ campaign, relentless and dogged, and which went on from the day Trump won the elections in the first instance defeating Hillary Clinton (though she got more votes), and the Black Lives Matter movement, massive and widespread across class, colour and race, apart from the larger rainbow coalition which swung it for Biden and Kamala Harris.

This coalition belongs to educated people, youngsters and students, the millennials, the LGBT collectives, the liberal White, enlightened and feminist women, immigrants and Asians, and almost the entire Black population, who consolidated the huge and unprecedented mass of vote which overwhelmed the support base of Trump, who just did not anticipate the huge ground level work, the door to door outreach, the voters’ enrolment and postal ballot campaign, and the idea of a new, egalitarian and secular America without the racial and sectarian divide. Native Indians campaigned and voted overwhelmingly against Trump. This was against the crass language and conduct displayed in the Trump era, where unbridled capitalism of monopolists, despite the pandemic, mass unemployment, collective uncertainty, depression and anxiety, stalked the American landscape.

The progressives’ agenda will mark the new America in more ways than one. People are desperate for a health sector which is not so shamelessly loaded in favour of the rich, which reaches out to the most ordinary Americans; they want higher education for the vast majority of the working class, across colour, they want social security and financial relief, jobs and homes for the homeless, and a society where the police and law enforcement agencies are not so brazenly biased and partisan. They also want accountability for the rich and super rich, a level-playing field, a new economic order, and an end to the rise and rise of the capitalists who seem to have flourished in an unprecedented manner amidst the despair and distress of the deadly pandemic.

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Surely, amidst the millennials, this is a trend which has been trending since Socialist Bernie Sanders first entered the fray, while being blocked again and again by the big money lobbies, including Barack Obama himself. The Barack-Biden twosome has a bad record on several counts: mass deportations of immigrants, the total insensitivity towards the working class, health and education, and of course, the unbridled killings by the drones in conflict zones across the middle-east and the borders of Afghanistan, and the death and destruction in Syria and Yemen, which continues. At least, in the Trump era, no new wars waged by America in the rest of the world, though his record on Palestine and Iran has been grossly unimaginative and crude.

Stacey Abrams, for instance, a prominent black leader of Georgia, who had earlier run for the post of Governor, has been credited for leading a whole-hearted and successful grassroots campaign for Biden, overcoming the formidable Trump support base in Georgia. Writes The Daily Beast: “The Biden campaign placed Georgia as one of just three reach states that they sought to turn blue, hoping to expand the party’s old electoral map to defeat President Donald Trump. The fact that Georgia is narrowly trending in that direction at the top of the ticket is, in part, thanks to the work Abrams put in place during her first governor run in 2018, where voter suppression contributed to her close loss to unseat (Republican) Kemp. She has since escalated her organizing and mobilizing efforts with Fair Fight, the group she founded in the aftermath of that election, and offered a strong closing pitch to voters to “make a plan to vote early” leading up to November 3.”

So will America heal itself and become united in these edgy days to come… The answer, as the Bob Dylan song says, is once again blowin’ in the wind.