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A man of steel

January 21, 2021

I spent most of yesterday afternoon and evening in Washington DC.

Not literally of course, but courtesy of CNN, whose endless coverage started with Trump slinking off through the back door and continued through the endless pomp and circumstance laid on for Biden’s inauguration.

Far be it for me to add to the endless stream of opinion, breaking news and shattered egos that accompanied the transfer of power from Biden’s unmentionable predecessor.

Compelling though the spectacle was, I found myself preoccupied with concern for the new president. How a man of seventy-eight managed eighteen hours of standing to attention, climbing and descending an endless succession of steep stairs and going in and out of the freezing cold without ending up totally wrecked is beyond me. The presidency must confer some supernatural power.

I can’t be the only person who thought of America’s 9th president, William Henry Harrison, who died in 1841 of pneumonia thirty-one days after his inauguration.

I found myself worrying about Biden on three counts. Like Harrison, he didn’t wear a hat, which is not sensible if you want to avoid heat loss in the cold. Then there was the absence of pit stops. For older guys, cold weather has a strange effect on the bladder. Within minutes of stepping out from a warm room, you feel the urge to pee. Not good if you have sit through a two-hour ceremony. And finally, when did the poor chap get the chance to re-fuel? Did he manage a quick sandwich in The Beast on the way to Arlington? Or was there a discreet spread laid on in the Capitol – maybe a cup of warming soup – before he stepped out on to the balcony? Or perhaps there was a acolyte on hand with a hip flask.

These were the questions I wanted to ask, as a man ten years younger than him who would have been a gibbering wreck if I’d had to endure what he did.

I also felt quite anxious for as long as he sat out in the open during the swearing-in ceremony, and even more when he got out of the car to walk to the White House. Could we really be sure that no nutcase would take a pot-shot? I guess the Secret Service felt the same way, as they accompanied him, eyes flickering from one vantage point to another, to the front door of his new home.

I lost interest somewhat after he was safely installed in the White House, safe in the knowledge that he’d be able to have a bit of a lie down and another cup of soup before signing his seventeen executive orders. But I’m still amazed at the endurance that enabled him to go through the whole exercise despite nursing a foot that was broken only a few weeks ago. Clearly a man of steel.

I went to bed before all the celebrations beyond my time zone began. Tom Hanks, Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi can wait another day.

But as I rose this morning in another continent to welcome a pinky blue sky after the departure of Storm Christoph, I felt a sense both of relief and malicious pleasure. Pleasure because the Unmentionable Predecessor is now skulking among his golden toilet fittings in Florida. And relief because The Plan came to nothing. If you’re familiar with the creed of QAnon, the forces of light were supposed to seize power yesterday and save the world from pederastic lizards.

The first bit did happen, but there was no evidence of scaly creatures or orange monsters anywhere near Washington DC. The Great Liberator was safely ensconced in exile, stuffing down chicken nuggets.

Thus QAnon were exposed as the digital successors of cults whose leaders in earlier times predicted the end of the world. When the end didn’t come, the prophets of yore quickly recalibrated their predictions, but nobody believed them any more. Hopefully that will be the fate of Q and his (or her) batty devotees.

So that was that. Plenty of God, no shortage of American Exceptionalism, ideals, hope and optimism oozing from every pore. America turned a page.

If only we could look forward to such ceremony when our scarecrow of a leader finally cycles away from Downing Street. But unfortunately these days we Brits reserve our pomp and circumstance mainly for royal weddings and funerals. And we do them very well. Though since our state funerals are mainly sombre affairs, and our weddings have an evens chance of ending in divorce, they’re hardly an opportunity to celebrate new dawns.

Yet a new dawn it is. No less worrying than the dawn that preceded it, but at least I get a sense that a weight has been lifted across the Atlantic.

Stay well, Joe.

From → History, Politics, Social, UK, USA

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