There you have it, the moment many of us have waited for.
The moment we needed, and the one we were almost too afraid to hope for because hoping for anything but survival these last four years seemed too ambitious.
But then, like a miracle, the man who brought democracy to its brink was gone, and a new day dawned.
If that sounds dramatic, or naive, humor me. Let me have this little bit of joy. Let us all who have endured, who are still enduring a pandemic, an economic crisis, hate — so much hate — breathe a much-deserved-if-fleeting sigh of relief.
I promise you it is possible to see how imperfect this moment and these people are, and still feel relief as we commit, or recommit, to the fight. And oh, what a fight we have ahead.
But first, let’s bask a little longer in some of the monumental glory of the day:
A president capable of saying the right words in the right order.
The first Boricua Supreme Court justice, Sonia Sotomayor, administering the oath of office to Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black, South Asian woman to hold the office.
The nation’s first second gentleman, and first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president.
Eugene Goodman, the Capitol Police officer who led rioters away from the Senate, escorting Harris.
The fierce Black former first lady Michelle Obama, whose picture-perfect appearance reminded us once again that we never deserved her. (And yeah, Jennifer Lopez, whom people may love to hate, but who remains the first celebrity I noticed in my life beyond my neighborhood who looked like me.)
Which is why it’s significant that a Black female fire captain, Andrea Hall, both recited the Pledge of Allegiance and signed it in American Sign Language.
And that a Black 22-year-old, Amanda Gorman, was the youngest poet to perform at a presidential inauguration.
Standing up on that podium, reciting the words from her work titled “The Hill We Climb,” Gorman stole the show and stirred spirits that since 2016 felt as if they might break.
“Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished,” Gorman preached. “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.”
Of course, even all of those glorious moments don’t fix anything — not yet. More than 400,000 Americans are gone. More are dying from coronavirus every day, killed under a corrupt president and an administration fueled by malignant lies.
The damage is deep, and despite the calls for unity, so is the rot — which is why we would do well on this dawn of a new day to chase the ghouls of the old ones back into the shadows any time they try to rebrand or rehabilitate themselves.
We can start with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a top Trump ally ABC has folded into its ranks of talking bobbleheads as if he had no part in the carnage.
And former Vice President Mike Pence, who was applauded for attending the inauguration but from where I sat was simply returning to the scene of a crime that he enabled by supporting a president who incited a domestic terrorist attack there just two weeks ago.
And so, so, so many others in and out of Congress who are betting on our short memories and Americans’ addiction to normalcy.
If you remember just one part of President Biden’s speech, let it be this:
“There is truth and there are lies. ... Each of us has a duty and responsibility, as citizens, as Americans, and especially as leaders – leaders who have pledged to honor our Constitution and protect our nation — to defend the truth and to defeat the lies.”
That includes keeping the Biden administration honest. But that’s a column for another day.
Here we are, miraculously, blessedly on the other side. But we must not forget. We cannot afford to forget.
“Better than Trump” is good, but it’s not good enough. If we don’t hold the enablers and coddlers and straight-up criminals of the last four years accountable, we might not be as lucky next time.
We can start by heeding the words and warnings of those whose voices and stories we failed to listen to last time around. Those whose wisdom we allowed ourselves to be distracted from as we struggled to put out the fires from the carnage we barely escaped. Some did not escape.
Let’s start by paying attention to Gorman, the poet.
“The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”