Commentary: The inauguration of Joe Biden as the new president of the United States was a world event the consequences of which will take time to process. At the same time, it was a historic moment in which we were permitted to feel a quite personal sense of relief.
Biden took over a USA ripped to shreds yet spoke to the world with a voice that has been absent for four years. Where his predecessor served hate monologues as long as he had access to a microphone or Twitter account, Joe Biden emerged as a state man demonstrating that he is the tool of his voters, not the other way around.
Keeping hate at bay
The inauguration ceremony, despite its being a terrifying testimony of how a former democracy has had to call on all its security forces to keep hate at bay, became a beautiful reminder that there is hope even in the midst of the pitch-black dark.
For a few hours, at least, we could surrender to a feeling of pure joy. We could forget about the formidable tasks that lie ahead of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, if they are to be able to mange to repair not only what Donald Trump has systematically shred into pieces, but also find solutions to the challenges that made and still makes voters gather around a president who used lies and conspiracy theories as tools of governance. Who used hateful speech to split and divide people and nations.
We could still hold on to that sense of hope when Joe Biden spent the first few hours at the White House on signing documents that tried to terminate his predecessor’s racism, his aversion towards international agreements and obligations and, not least, de-politicized the Corona pandemic, which continues killing hundreds of thousands of Americans with unabated strength.
There is hope even in the midst of the pitch-black dark
We could. Even though we know that everyday life will come to Joe Biden too.
Poverty and division
Everyday life is about a USA in which poverty and deep divides are the norm, where international agreements have been torn apart as if they were paper napkins, and where the world has seen that predictability can no longer be counted on from that political theatre known as ‘America’.
That also goes for those of us who inhabit the northern hemisphere of the globe. The fact that Joe Biden once again commits the USA to the Paris Agreement cannot be overestimated. It is about repairing and reducing man-made climate effects that already affect everyday life of millions of people. His quick attempt to halt petroleum exploitation in Alaska’s vulnerable wildlife points in the same direction.
The newly inaugurated president also has to enter into dialogue with Russia, to reduce the power of weapon-regulating agreements that were put aside under Donald Trump, agreements contributing to not only increasing political but also military tension in the High North.
A series of offspring stand ready to inflict new breakdowns on the USA
He has to restore international trade agreements that during the Trump presidency were replaced by bilateral agreements, which make small countries like Norway hardly stand a chance on the international market.
All this, and much more, he has to do while he also has apparently insurmountable domestic policy challenges. However, only if he manages to carry out national reforms can he bring American foreign policy on to a more predictable track. Today, few state leaders dare look further ahead than to the next American presidential election, in 2024.
Donald Trump is not likely to return, but through his nepotism he has nurtured and grown a series of offspring who stand ready to inflict new breakdowns on the USA in the coming year, provided they get the chance.
But right now, we are okay to feel the joy that normalcy has replaced absurdity in the White House in Washington D.C.
This commentary was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by HNN's Elisabeth Bergquist.