Issue 10 // US Presidential Inauguration Special
Where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
Amanda Gorman // The Hill We Climb
Here we are…2021, a new year, a new lockdown…and a new US president! For the first time in years, there is a sense of genuine…dare I say, “hope”? in the air. With the end of the Trump era, the world has let out a collective sigh of relief, and prays that 2021 does indeed bear better news for all.
This tension between hope and despair was perfectly captured by the words of 22 year old Amanda Gorman and her inauguration poem, The Hill We Climb. Poetry is not a traditional part of inaugurations, and Gorman is only the sixth poet in history to partake in the ceremony.
Her selection is symbolic for several reasons: her age and her race represent a shifting of tides. As Gen Z comes of age, more woke than ever, Gorman (who at the age of 17 was the nation’s first National Youth Poetry Laureate) expresses the indignation her generation feels at witnessing the ‘adults in charge’ royally screwing up.
At the same time however, she invokes wisdom beyond her years to recognise the reality that politics will never achieve perfection. Not that this excuses anyone who would not participate in the democracy, or even worse, act to wilfully hinder it.
The skill of her wordcraft is also on display in a subtle reference to the Bible. Not for its spiritual connotations, but in its own layered drama in American history:
Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree
And no one shall make them afraid
If we're to live up to our own time, then victory won't lighten the blade
But in all the bridges we've made, that is the promise to glade
There are three references at play here:
The literal Biblical reference of Micah 4:4, in which the prophet Micah speaks to a nation in a state of disrepair, searching for restoration…(hmm, sound familiar?) The passage in the Bible even features the subtitles ‘The Mountain of the House of the Lord’ and ‘The Restoration of Zion’.
George Washington himself had a reputation of referencing this passage. He was fond of the imagery of the “vine and fig” to juxtapose the simple life of the common man versus the extravagance of royalty.
The popular musical Hamilton features a reference to this line as well, with the character of George Washington singing it. It’s the first of two Hamilton references in Gorman’s poem.
By weaving these three strands of literary and historical references, Gorman captures the essence of past, present, and future hope, something that the US is in desperate need of.
Joe + Kamala // How Do You Do Fellow Kids?
Barack Obama’s Spotify playlists always go viral for their hip-savvyness. And for the most part, they actually are on brand. One could definitely imagine Obama listening to Kendrick Lamar and relating to the lyrics of To Pimp a Butterfly. It was both genius marketing, and subtle identity politics that actually had a kernel of truth to it.
And while Joe Biden has played into the ‘lovable uncle’ branding, and Kamala Harris’ experience as a woman of colour lends her credibility with many sectors of the BIPOC community, the inauguration playlist they released…just doesn’t quite sit right.
I took a brief statistical look at the music they chose, and the results are as follows:
I applaud the efforts by the Democrats to relate to the youth vote…but we must not forget to not mindlessly welcome any politician on accounts of who they aren’t.
One inclusion on the playlist that ruffled some feathers in the hip-hop community was MF DOOM’s “Red and Gold”. Given DOOM’s recent passing, on its surface, it would seem like a fitting tribute…but hip-hop fans were quick to remember DOOM’s run-in with visa issues in 2010, under the Obama-Biden administration.
Garth Brooks VS The State of Oklahoma
I just wanted to point out how amazing it is that Garth Brooks closed the inauguration ceremony with a rendition of “Amazing Grace”. A music legend from a genre typically associated with the other side of politics to sing the benediction? Nice.
For context, here’s what the state of Oklahoma, Brooks’ home state, looked like on election day:
And the Home of the Brave
While I do not vouch for American exceptionalism, there is no denying that America has one of the best national anthems in the world. Lady Gaga did just fine with her rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner”, but you should definitely watch these as well:
Happy Straya day I guess.