On january 20, america awoke to a bright new dawn. A new chapter has begun in the history of the United States of America (pop.331 million), the world’s oldest democratic nation (estb.1776). Joseph (‘Joe’) Biden, former vice president of the US during the presidency of Barack Obama (2009-2017), with a respectable 40-year track record in US politics, was sworn-in as the 46th President of the world’s wealthiest and militarily most powerful nation, commonly acknowledged as the leader nation of the free world, i.e, democratic countries which elect their governments in free and fair general elections based on the principle of one man/woman one vote.
It’s easy — and fashionable — to sneer at Americans. Left-leaning intellectuals who despite the collapse of communism worldwide mysteriously continue to dominate the Indian academy and media, tend to dismiss Americans as loud, crass, greedy and ubiquitous — “over-rich, over-sexed and over here”. But this contempt is rooted more in envy than in ideological or intellectual superiority. The plain truth is that warts and all, America is the world’s most highly intellectual, innovative, productive and militarily strongest nation worldwide.
This is not to say that the US is a perfect democracy. Far from it. Over 150 years after the country experienced a bitter civil war (1864-68) on the issue of abolition of slavery, there is pervasive prejudice against the nation’s over 40 million black community which remains poor and backward. Contemporary America is also experiencing deep and widening income inequalities, and a rising crime wave. Moreover, the country is an epicentre of the raging Coronavirus pandemic with over 50 million citizens having tested Covid-positive and over 400,000 fatalities, the highest worldwide. Yet the greatness of America is that all these and other issues that confront its society are debated with frank and fearless transparency in independent institutions of governance and the media.
In his powerful and inspiring message to America and the world, Biden spelt out the daunting challenges confronting his presidency. “A once-in-a-century virus silently stalks the country. It’s taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War II. 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… a cry for survival comes from the planet itself… And now a rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.”
All right thinking people around the world — and especially in India, the world’s most populous democracy — should wish him God speed.