Jackie Wilson Asheeke

I drove through Washington, DC two days before the inauguration of President Joe Biden. I had flashbacks to a drive through DC when I was in pre-school, two days after Dr Martin Luther King’s assassination. The soldiers, tanks, sirens, and flashing lights were everywhere then and now. I shuddered at seeing weapons in plain sight. The scrutinizing eyes of armed white men made my blood run cold as a child and now as an adult.

I know intellectually that the massive show of force was needed to keep the extremist right-wing lunatic fringe from easily acting out their wet dreams about killing, blowing things up and destruction. ‘He Who Shall Not Be Named’ but is thankfully now the former US president, released an evil that has always lurked in the hearts of certain people. Can Good President Joe stuff that evil back into its hole?

While in DC, we took my brother back to his hotel after my mother’s funeral mass. We had to cross the bridges over the Potomac to get to Crystal City, Virginia to the Marriot. The main bridges had already been closed by that time. We had to take the tunnel under the Potomac as that was the only way across. Even that would be closed the next morning. Aside from the major traffic jams caused by Washington’s military lockdown, I felt both comforted by the military presence and profoundly sad that they had to be there.

Driving through various DC neighbourhoods, I saw men in military fatigues on patrol. It was just like in 1968 when I saw men with guns marching up our street towards the Old Soldier’s Home, a military complex near our house back then. I remember that I thought the marching men were exciting; Mom was horrified.

I was far too young to understand what was happening in the riots after the King assassination. I ‘get it’ now. And yet, I still feel equally conflicted on some levels. Is the only way to fight violence to be violent? Perhaps my exposure to pacifist Quakerism in undergraduate school has infected me. To fight fire with fire leaves everything burned down. But, to let armed lunatics run amok will destroy everything. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” – Edmund Burke.

This is why I am still conflicted looking at nearly the same scenes of military occupation in Washington, DC over 50 years later.

There were a couple of brothas’ who came strapped to mom’s funeral – feel me on this point. I support their precaution. It was too volatile to be out on the streets of Washington with no self-protection. Anything could have jumped off. As a child, I recall seeing my neighbors loading their weapons to protect their homes back in 1968. Armed white men marching through a black neighborhood is never a calming thing. Ask the Black people who survived Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921 and other places.

No one who forcefully disagrees with ‘He Who Shall Not Be Named’ is safe from violence or the threat of violence yet. I believe that America will find a way to make a change.

Joe Biden may emerge as a figure in history like Abraham Lincoln or FDR. They were presidents who took the reins of power during trying times that threatened to destroy the country. The USA will prevail over the current bad times (even with COVID killing 400,000 people); but Biden must shape what kind of USA will emerge.

I loved Biden’s inaugural statement that people must be able to disagree and not want to tear each other apart for it.

Good President Joe’s inaugural message was not just for the 74 million who did not vote for him or the 80 million who did and the 60 million who didn’t vote. It was also for the fringe left-wing also wants their voice to be the only one. They will ‘cancel’ anyone thinking otherwise. Biden needs to try hard to challenge that thinking too.

When people consciously choose to not listen to any voice other than their own, it is a bad thing; it doesn’t matter whether they are on the left or right.

None of this means that black men when confronted by the police are necessarily safer in the USA than before. But it does mean that the value of a black life (or trepidation about the response after taking a black life) has risen in America. Can Biden raise a black man’s life to the country’s value level of a rich white woman’s? Probably not, but it is comforting to know that a good man will be sincerely trying.

‘He who shall not be named’ opened Pandora’s Box. Good President Biden must now close it. Can he?