Two days prior to yesterday’s historic inauguration of Joseph R. Biden, Jr. as the 46th president of the United States, his longtime ally and current U.S. Representative from the 8th District of Virginia that includes the City of Falls Church, Donald S. Beyer Jr. was here in the Little City for a ceremonial event marking Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at the Tinner Hill Foundation.
Beyer, who was at the inauguration ceremony across the Potomac with his wife Megan yesterday, foreshadowed the work facing the new Biden administration with a bold set of initiatives to combat systemic racism in our culture. It was exactly in step with the moves Biden is taking in his first days.
“Our division has more than one cause, but we must be brave enough to acknowledge that the first and primary cause is our structural, systemic and deeply seated racism,” he said. “This is a racism that is obvious and apparent everywhere in our culture and in our economy. It is not new, we have accepted it, nurtured it, and even fought against it for more than 400 years.”
Beyer provided a stark example, suggesting that if those who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, “who beat up police officers, defecated on the Senate floor, threatened to hang the Vice President and assassinate the Speaker, if they were black, how many would have died?”
Meanwhile, in the wake of the attack on the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, regional law enforcement, including that in the City of Falls Church, were placed on high alert, with F.C. Police Chief Mary Gavin telling the City Council here that she was on conference calls multiple times daily, noting that the murderous Jan. 6 assault was “one of the most widely documented crimes in U.S. history.”
While it was reported that numbers of the demonstrators at that event were staying in City hotels and motels past Jan. 6 in hopes of trying to disrupt the Jan. 20 inauguration, the only incident here that occured at a local shopping center was not related to the demonstrations, she reported.
She said that monitoring of online “chatter” indicated there were no direct threats to Northern Virginia or Falls Church, especially in the wake of the buildup of security forces following Jan. 6. Still, everyone in the region was “upstaffed” to full levels for the inauguration yesterday.
Everything appeared to go off without a hitch yesterday, with a graphic image of the change seen in a double-image screen aired by CNN in the morning showing on one side the Biden entourage at D.C.’s iconic St. Matthew’s Cathedral and, on the other side, Air Force One carrying Donald Trump in the sky away from D.C. for the last time as president.
Lady Gaga’s singing of the National Anthem during the swearing in was considered a major hit, and the bipartisan nature of that event, with Vice President Mike Pence being the highest level Republican accompanied by former president George W. Bush socializing with Democratic former presidents Bill Clinton, with Hillary, and Barack Obama, with Michelle offering a striking image of the kind of unity made more manifest in the face of the recent weeks’ attempts and threats of a rightwing coup.
Unfortunately, the 96-year old warrior, former President Jimmy Carter, was unable to make the event.
In his remarks following the swearing in, Biden struck a powerful theme in the context of the recent attacks. “Today, we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy,” he said. “Through a crucible for the ages America has been tested anew and America has risen to the challenge.”
“We met the moment,” he went on. “Democracy and hope, truth and justice did not die on our watch but thrived.”
“Through the Civil War, the Great Depression, World War, 9/11, through struggle, sacrifice and setbacks, our ‘better angels’ have always prevailed…History, faith and reason show us the way, the way of unity.”
He affirmed the challenges. “A once-in-a-century virus stalks the country. It’s taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War 2. Millions of jobs have been lost, Hundreds of thousands of businesses closed. A cry for racial justice some 400 years in the making moves us. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer.”
He added, “A rise in political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism also must be confronted and we will defeat.
“Here we stand, just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, and to drive us from this sacred ground. That did not happen. It will never happen. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.”
He added, “Hear me clearly, disagreement must not lead to disunion. I pledge this to you, I will be President for all Americans.”
He quoted St. Augustine that “a people is a multitude defined by the common objects of their love.”
Such objects today are, he said, “Opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honor and, yes, the truth” and opposed to “lies told for power and for profit.”
“Each of us has a duty,” he added, “to defend the truth and to defeat the lies.” As a nation, we can overcome divisions “if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts,” he said. “If we show a little tolerance and humility. If we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes for just a moment….In the work ahead of us, we will need each other, we will need all our strength to persevere through this dark winter.
“With purpose and resolve, we turn to the tasks of our time, sustained by faith, driven by conviction, and devoted to one another and to this country we love with all our hearts.”