Calmer waters in sight for the US

On the Edge

On the Edge
Áine Ryan

WHEN President-elect Joe Biden returned to Mayo to turn the sod for the new Mayo-Roscommon palliative care facility on September 12, 2017, he was fulfilling a promise he had made during his official visit to Ireland the previous year. Two years earlier his son, Beau, aged just 46, had died from brain cancer. So committing to such a ceremony had to be a poignant visit. He was returning to the county of his ancestors to fulfill a gesture that underscored both the frailty and resilience of human beings.
And resilience is something etched deeply in Biden’s personal and professional life.  
We all know now that he lost his first wife Neilia and baby daughter, Naomi in a car crash in 1972. It was the year he was first elected to the Senate.  
Now, almost 50 years later, aged 77, his tenacity and resilience has ensured his victory in a Titanic battle to become the 46th President of the United States.
It is his well-documented ability to build bridges, to be able to cross the House and shake hands with Republicans, that is his most important quality now in a country that has become so embittered and divided during the autocratic reign of Donald J Trump.
Aren’t there so many images that symbolise the essential qualities of these two men who in recent months represented the chasm in that vast country?  
On Sunday Joe Biden began his day by attending Mass with his daughter from his second marriage to Dr Jill Biden and grandson Hunter, Beau’s son. Afterwards he crossed the street to the cemetery where his parents, first wife, baby daughter and son are buried. Reportedly he knelt at their gravesides and said a prayer.  
Meanwhile, Donald Trump continued to make groundless claims of election fraud whilst instituting a series of legal actions, most of which will fail according to experts, and then headed off to play golf at his course in Sterling, Virginia.
Isn’t it quite simply the stuff of cartoon strips? This is the man who was condemned by the Episcopal Bishop of Washington for his cynical opportunism when he stood across from the White House at St John’s Church for a photo opportunity whilst wielding a Bible after officers used teargas to clear a crowd of peaceful protestors in the aftermath last June of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis policeman.  
Of course, we all know only too well that the cult of Trumpism this self-obsessed narcissist has developed masks a deeper fissure in the United States. It is one that has become even more perilous with the impact and fall-out from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Significantly though, as Professor Eddie Glaude of Princeton University tweeted last week: “The so-called moral outrage around Trump’s presidency did not produce any substantive shift in his Republican support. In fact, he expanded his base among white voters. Trump continues to flourish in the intersection of greed, selfishness and racism.”
But Donald Trump is a master manipulator and essentially has also successfully tapped into the unfulfilled needs of the disenfranchised. His crude rhetoric has wooed those who no longer have jobs because of the losses of manufacturing industries to the developing world where labour is cheaper. He has become the voice for those whose moral beliefs and religious faith abhors abortion. Indeed, he has also brought many rich Americans along on his toxic ride ensuring they had more money in their pockets than such contenders as ‘Socialist Joe’, as he liked to call Biden. (That moniker alone brought many Cubans in Florida onside.)  
There are many Irish and Irish-American supporters of Donal Trump too and not only in the Co Clare village of Doonbeg.
As Brexit looms, with its ideology of British exceptionalism and nationalism, the United States is at a colossal crossroads. And a man whose forebears came from Ballina, stands at the helm of steering the ship of State into calmer waters. Let’s hope the green and red jersey he was given after he turned the sod in Castlebar three years ago always reminds of the resilience and compassion that is deep in his cultural heritage.