Yesterday, Inauguration Day, January 20, 2021, was like a day-long session of group therapy for me. I settled into my chair in front of the fireplace with a cup of coffee plenty soon enough to turn on the TV and see the former President clamber onto the helicopter and whirr away to Andrews airbase where a scraggly array of followers bade him farewell. Although I have avoided any viewing of him for many weeks now, I didn’t want to miss this moment. I wanted—I needed—the satisfaction of seeing him leave. Seeing him go away. Seeing him evaporate from my life and our national scene, once and for all.
Then I spent fifteen straight hours absorbing the realization that my life and our national life have turned the page on that horror story. Hour by hour, the ugliness was nudged aside and replaced by something noble. The flashbacks to that magnificent memorial at the reflecting pool the night before. The solemnity of the early morning worship. Every speech, prayer, poem, song all day long calling out for us to come home, come home to the America we want to be, if only we are kind and brave and generous enough to work at it.
Hour after hour, right through to the concert that closed the day, I felt us rekindling the embers of basic decency that have kept the forces of darkness from extinguishing our brave experiment in seeking a more perfect union among polyglot immigrant bedfellows ruled only by common will. It is such a noble urge, so vulnerable to sabotage, so utterly dependent on the unsung heroes and heroines working to keep it alive by taking their everyday responsibilities of citizenship more seriously than I do.
When the last glowing embers of the fireworks trickled down from the skies above our capital, I realized that I could finally relinquish the tiny shimmer of dread I had harbored all day long anticipating the gunshot or the detonation of a bomb. The tears of joy that I had felt many times during the day were replaced by tears of relief, a benediction confirming to me that a better day really is at hand.
I will live the rest of my days in profound gratitude for all those who made it possible.