We’re 10 days into the Biden-Harris administration and, for now at least, civilization seems to be holding itself together, so I feel like it’s okay to begin doing some frivolous, nonpolitical blogging again. I don’t know about you, but I could use the break.
As I mentioned at the end of the last year’s 30-Day Song Challenge, I’ve also come across a 30-Day Movie Challenge. How can I resist doing that one, especially considering how well the Song Challenge worked at prompting me to post something on a fairly regular basis?
Now, I’ve done a lot of “list of favorites” type entries over the years, and it seems like the same films just keep coming up over and over in those. So to try and make this a bit more interesting (and a lot less repetitive), I’ve decided to impose one big restriction on myself: no films from the Star Wars franchise. And I’ll also strive to avoid using any of the movies that I blather about all the time, although that may be a bit trickier to pull off. We’ll see what I can come up with.
It’s been slightly over 96 hours since Joe Biden took the oath of office and became the 46th president of the United States.
And while it may be unrealistic and even unfair to expect much of a change in only four days… the world today feels very different to me than it did last Sunday. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say… I feel very different. I have literally felt my body unclenching little by little over these past four day. Relaxing. It’s been rather like what I experienced after I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and diabetes; as the medications took effect and I returned to something resembling how a normal human body is supposed to function, I was surprised by how different I suddenly felt. You know how people describe getting angry as “seeing red?” Well, before my blood pressure was regulated, before I knew it needed to be regulated, I literally did that. It was as if a red lens dropped over my eyes whenever I got irritated about something. And I never questioned it because I thought it was just something that happened to everyone. But now it doesn’t happen anymore and I understand that it was a warning sign. In short, I never realized how bad I used to feel all the time until I started to feel well. And the same type of thing is happening now that Trump is gone.
I’ve spent the last four years feeling angry, constantly angry, every single day. Every day, there was a new outrage, a fresh source of irritation and loathing, as the wanna-be mafia don in the Oval Office and his team of deplorables — yes, I said it; Hillary was right on with that description when it comes to the likes of Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Rudy Giuliani and all the other scumbags that comprised Trump’s inner circle — kicked the supports out from under everything that progressives value and have fought so hard to build over the last 90 years. Those feelings ramped up in the two months following the election as the hardheaded narcissist refused to concede and his sycophants in Congress and on the TV talking-head shows spread the Big Lie that the election was somehow rigged. (If that was true, if the Democrats had really pulled off some kind of massive conspiracy to swing the election in their favor, does it make any sense at all that we wouldn’t have arranged for an overwhelming majority in the Senate as well? Come on… ). And then on January 6, as the barbarians raged through the halls of the Capitol building — our Capitol, We the People’s Capitol — with their Confederate treason flags and their ridiculous cosplay outfits, my anger became white-hot fury, and then as inauguration day approached, I had a sick certainty that something was going to happen…
And then it didn’t. No assassination attempt, no car bomb, no riots. Biden and Harris just took their oaths and before the fireworks flew that evening were already busy at work trying to undo the damage the previous administration has wrought. The whole tone of business changed almost instantly. We have press conferences again and a press secretary who wants to work with the media instead of antagonizing them. We have scientists back in charge of the pandemic. Trump toadies within the civil service are being invited to leave. It’s all so… I hate to use the word “normal,” because I hesitate to believe anything will ever be normal again, but the news has become so… quiet. And competent. It feels like the grown-ups are back after an unruly school class has trashed their room.
Now, I’m not a fool. It has been, after all, only four days. Biden has an ambitious agenda and is confronted with a hell of a lot of fires to put out, and logic and cold experience dictates that he’s not going to be able to do all of it, or even most of it. The Republicans are already pushing their usual disingenuous bullshit around the concept of “unity” (i.e., that “unity” means “do it all our way or we’ll scream that you’re not serious about healing the nation”); Mitch McConnell remains intransigent about blocking the Democratic agenda any way he can (“promise not to nuke the filibuster or I’ll filibuster!”); the MAGA nation is still out there screaming about election fraud and socialism; and the media is already doing their part to undermine a Democratic president by publishing stupid shit like that article about Biden’s Rolex (am I supposed to feel a burst of class-based outrage that he has a nice watch and a classic Corvette when the previous occupant of the White House craps in a gold-plated toilet?). So while rolling back the most egregious of Trump’s activities with executive orders of our own feels mighty damn satisfying, any genuine, long-lasting progress is going to be an uphill battle to achieve. I know all of this. And I know that Trump himself is still out there, too, lurking somewhere in the shadows, along with all of his shallow-gene’d, cokehead, would-be dynastic offspring, waiting for their chance to lurch back into the light and stir the shit up again, if not incite another coup attempt.
But you know… we’ve had four glorious days of not having to hear about him or hear him, of not having to see his ugly little sphincter-mouth all over my social media newsfeeds, and that has really been enough for now. His absence has been blissful luxury.
(Incidentally, I know this entry is considerably less… measured… than my usual political posts. I usually try hard to not deliberately provoke my conservative friends. But I can’t hold it back anymore. The last four years have tested me, and tested this country, almost to the very limits of our endurance. And I’m tired of playing nice just to avoid an argument. So, while I don’t wish to hurt, anger, or fight with anyone who might be reading this, I’m also not going to muzzle myself. Not anymore, not on my blog. You don’t like the tone? Take it up with Donald Fucking Trump, the worst president this nation has ever endured, may he rot down there at his ticky-tacky Florida compound.)
In closing, I want to share Bruce Springsteen’s performance from the Celebrating America special that aired on various networks and platforms on inauguration night. As with so many Springsteen songs, it aches with a world-weary melancholy, but there’s a hard, warm little kernel of optimism at the center of it. That’s where I am right now, where I have been since the morning of January 20. It’s not going to be easy for Joe Biden… but I do believe he’s going to move heaven and earth to try to make things better. And after the last four years of selfish exploitation and creeping authoritarianism, he’s going to look like goddamn hero for it.
Grab your ticket and your suitcase Thunder’s rolling down the tracks You don’t know where you’re goin’ now But you know you won’t be back Darlin’ if you’re weary Lay your head upon my chest We’ll take what we can carry And we’ll leave the rest
Big wheels rolling through fields Where sunlight streams Meet me in a land of hope and dreams
Joseph R. Biden is now the president of the United States.
I feel like an anvil has been lifted from my head.
And yet… you know what I keep thinking about today? There’s this one particular moment in the old Empire Strikes Back radio drama made for NPR back in the ’80s… what’s that? You don’t know about that? Well, if you’re a Star Wars fan who hasn’t heard the radio dramas, you really owe it to yourself to seek them out. You wouldn’t think that movies with such a strong visual identity and relatively little dialogue could be successfully adapted to a strictly audio format, but these work extremely well, thanks to strong scripting by the late Brian Daley (who wrote the early tie-in novels about Han Solo and Chewie), original music and sound effects from the films, and some very talented voice actors, including Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, and Billy Dee Williams. The radio dramas actually deepen the familiar stories in a number of interesting ways; I personally prefer the radio version of how Leia came into possession of the Death Star plans to what we see in Rogue One.
Anyhow, in the Empire adaptation, the Battle of Hoth takes up an entire half-hour episode, ending on a terrific cliffhanger as the Rebel base falls and our heroes are forced to run for their lives. The action builds and builds, with Leia in the command center barking orders, artillery fire rattling the base, the music swelling, and then a distorted voice comes over the comm system: “Imperial troops have entered the base! Imperial troops — ” There’s the sound of a blaster shot and a burst of static. Han Solo tells the princess this is it, they’re out of time. Leia gives the evacuation order, and there’s even more commotion, a klaxon ringing, controllers shouting, the music rising…. and then a sudden moment of silence. The only sound effect is of dust falling. It’s like the story is pausing to catch its breath… and then the music returns, insistent, more frantic than ever… the sound effects come back with a roar of blasterfire and explosions as Vader’s theme pounds out… and then the narrator gives us the closing blurb about the Rebels struggling to keep the light of freedom from going out forever… cue the closing credits for that week.
Well, friends, today feels to me very much like that moment of silence during the radio version of the Battle of Hoth. The story has paused, the dust is settling, and we’re all letting out a collective exhale. But the pandemic is still raging; the QAnon cultists and white supremacists and anti-government militias are still out there, and I don’t expect they’re going to just melt back into the shadows; the Supreme Court is now solidly conservative, and Mitch McConnell is no doubt already scheming a way to gum up Biden’s agenda; and there is so, so, so much damage to repair. And I expect the battle against all of that to fade back in as soon as tomorrow morning.
But that’s tomorrow. For now, let’s just… exhale. And enjoy the quiet sound of dust settling…
Tomorrow at 12 noon EST (10 AM where I am), the Trump presidency will be formally over. (Actually, I think you can argue pretty convincingly that it’s been over since election day; certainly, Trump hasn’t made any pretense of actual governance since then, preferring instead to sulk on the golf course, pursue quixotic lawsuits, and of course incite a failed coup attempt.) The miserable trainwreck of the past four years, which have felt more like 400, will finally, at long last, be over. In my head, the countdown clock is now running.
However, given the ominous threat of more MAGA shenanigans, as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic necessitating a socially distanced inaugural ceremony unlike any in living memory, I find myself imagining a very specific countdown clock, with a very specific sound effect…