Well let’s have a look at Joe Biden’s inaugural speech from today, shall we? First, here’s the background material he used:
- US Constitution, Presidential Oath of Office
- US Declaration of Independence, “all men are created equal”
- Abraham Lincoln, Words before signing the Emancipation Proclamation
- Psalms 29:6 (this is Psalms 30 if you use the Masoretic numbering)
- “American Anthem” – song by Gene Scheer
- St. Augustine, City of God, Book 19 Chapter 24
- The Pledge of Allegiance
Joe’s a neoliberal and with neoliberals you must always keep in mind that they have their own lexicon of words which have totally different meanings than the meanings everybody else uses. It’s rhetorical sleight-of-hand they employ. Here are some of the major words and phrases twisted in the speech and how they are properly defined in the neoliberal sense:
- democracy — really means ‘oligarchy of neoliberals’
- unity — really means ‘obedience’
- sacred, hallowed — really means ‘secular’
- of the people — really means ‘of the neoliberals’
- tolerance — really means ‘intolerance’
From here on out, Joe’s words are bolded and in quotes, then followed by my commentary.
“Chief Justice Roberts, Vice President Harris. SpeakerPelosi, Leader Schumer, McConnell, Vice President Pence, my distinguished guests and my fellow Americans, this is America’s day.” Note it opens with a catalogue.
“This is democracy’s day. A day of history and hope of renewal and resolve through a crucible for the ages. America has been tested anew and America has risen to the challenge. Today, we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy. The people, the will of the people, has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded.” Of course this is total nonsense and makes no sense. The man just stole an election, how is this “democracy’s day”? It cannot be, unless you understand the truth that when he says ‘democracy’ he means ‘oligarchy’. And when he mentions ‘will of the people’ he means ‘will of the neoliberals’. No other explanation is possible.
“We’ve learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.” Yes, how fragile is oligarchy! And what a feat it was to pull off the steal. The Heist of the Century!
“From now, on this hallowed ground, where just a few days ago, violence sought to shake the Capitol’s very foundation, we come together as one nation, under God, indivisible to carry out the peaceful transfer of power, as we have for more than two centuries.” Neoliberals are decidedly secular, and in fact in 2012 they infamously removed references to God in the Democrat Party platform. Joe’s quoting the Pledge of Allegiance here with “one nation, under God, indivisible” however a large faction of neoliberals chafe against this God-reference. In fact during the bizarre virtual 2020 Democrat National Convention which nominated Joe, the Pledge was said twice with pointedly leaving out the ‘under God’ phrase. Joe, the elder statesman, has the wisdom to know this is bad politics however. He will continue to invoke the holy and apply it to the secular even though the neoliberals have no use for the former. This is “having your cake and eating it too” — the mother’s milk of politics!
“As we look ahead in our uniquely American way: restless, bold, optimistic, and set our sights on the nation we can be and we must be.” Here’s another catalogue, a triplet of ‘restless, bold, optimistic’. It is weakly presented — what makes these things uniquely American? Furthermore, is ‘restless’ a good thing, why is it a chosen property here? That’s strange! But the entire assertion is so weak that he terminates it with a rhetorical flourish, as if to rescue it. that repetition of ‘be’ at the end is a device called epistrophe. It’s one of the forms of repetition from classical rhetoric, and Joe uses it to buttress and to mask. He’s running two ideas by you, fast and loose. The first is that we have ‘our uniquely American way’ (even though that thought get tellingly slighted) and the second is that our nation, as it exists right now, sucks. Yes! For why else would we have to set our sights on ‘a nation we can be and must be’? Must be? We aren’t good enough for Joe and the neoliberals. Not as we are!
“I thank my predecessors of both parties for their presence here today. I thank them from the bottom of my heart. And I know, I know the resilience of our Constitution and the strength, the strength of our nation. As does President Carter, who I spoke with last night, who cannot be with us today, but whom we salute for his lifetime of service.” This is mostly pablum but oh look at that! Do you see the rhetorical games? Look at this sentence “And I know, I know the resilience of our Constitution and the strength, the strength of our nation.” Look at how he repeats “I know, I know” and “the strength, the strength”, why it’s like an incantation, no? These are two usages of conduplicatio, another technique of repetition from classical rhetoric. Again Joe is using it buttress and to mask. What’s he masking? The resiliance and strength of the Constitution. After all, he just blew all of that apart when he stole the election.
“I’ve just taken the sacred oath. Each of those patriots have taken. The oath, first sworn by George Washington. But the American story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us, on we the people who seek a more perfect union.” There is no sacred oath. Have a look at it! I posted a link to it at the beginning of this. The oath is very simple, very spartan, it’s quite shorn of any rhetorical flourishes or pretensions. It’s a secular oath, it’s a promise to uphold the secular agreement arrived at by states. The oath is a promise to keep those things bargained between men. Joe here attempts to load it up with more magical weight than it really has, by invoking ghosts. But also, can you see it? Can you see the rhetorical spells being cast yet again through repetition? “not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us, on we the people”. This is called anaphora, it’s yet another form of repetition from classical rhetoric. Joe uses these various repetitions to pull fast ones.
“This is a great nation. We are good people. And over the centuries, through storm and strife, in peace and in war, we’ve come so far. But we still have far to go. We’ll press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibilities, much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build, and much to gain.” The key phrase here is “this winter of peril”, and this passage of the speech has gotten a lot of ink. Joe’s alluding to the COVID crisis here, it is generally said. Why is it linked to “significant possibilities”? Is it peril or possibilities? Again tho he launches into a catalogue stream of repeated phrases. It’s epistrophe yet again, “much to … much to … much to … much to…” Joe’s masking his plans and buttressing their importance in a rhetorical swirl.
“Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now. Once-in-a-century virus that 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 four hundred years in the making moves us. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer. The cry for survival comes from planet itself, a cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear. And now a rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.” Here’s Joes catalogue of challenges. COVID, economic loss, racial justice, climate change, and Americans. Note the repetition of “cry”! The ‘cry’ applies to racial justice and then twice over to climate change. These are the two challenges he emphasizes rhetorically, but they are also the two challenges which are, frankly, not solvable. If the neoliberals could solve these two problems (they can’t), they still wouldn’t. Each are too politically valuable! The mendacity and the affronts against decency in the last line there about political extremism and so forth are enough to fill volumes. Let me just observe how disgusting it is, particularly in the wake of nearly one full year of violence in the streets egged on by neoliberals such as Joe.
“To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity, unity.” Look how Joe ends this with a repeition of ‘unity’. This is another rhetorical flourish, it is called epizeuxis in classical rhetoric. And you can see what Joe means about how elusive unity is in a democracy, especially when you take into account that by ‘democracy’ Joe means ‘oligarchy’. But what is this talk around ‘to restore the soul’ of America? America does not have a soul. Countries do not have souls! You have a soul, I have a soul, there is no ‘you-and-me soul’! Joe has been talking about “restoring the soul of America” all along since the beginning of his campaign, though. Nobody knows what that means. Joe doesn’t even know what that means. It’s something he says because it sounds good, and he cannot elaborate on it, because “there is no there there” as Gertude Stein would say (and ah, would you look at that? In light on the rhetorical repetitions I’ve highlighted?). Joe built a campaign vapor and nobody knows what he’s talking about, even Joe. But he does hammer on about unity at the end. What does he mean by unity? We shall see!
“In another January, on New Year’s Day in 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. When he put pen to paper, the president said, and I quote, ‘if my name ever goes down into history, it’ll be for this act. And my whole soul is in it.'” Now this is just bizarre. Joe’s gone down this rabbit hole about the soul of America, and now he’s invoking Abe Lincoln’s soul to save it. I posted above the story about this, here’s in a nutshell what happened. Abe went to sign the Emanicpation Proclamation and he hestitated. And then he concocted this story about how his entire soul was deeply invested in this, so this is why he hestitated — lest anybody think he hesitated!! Yes it is pretty funny actually. And here’s the vapor where Biden chose to stand.
“My whole soul was in it today. On this January day, my whole soul is in this: Bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation. And I ask every American to join me in this cause. Uniting to fight the foes we face: anger, resentment, hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness and hopelessness. With unity, we can do great things, important things. We can right wrongs. We can put people to work in good jobs. We can teach our children in safe schools. We can overcome the deadly virus. We can reward, reward work and rebuild the middle class and make health care secure for all. We can deliver racial justice and we can make America once again the leading force for good in the world.” This is the rhetorical summa of the speech. Notice the heavy use of all the ‘We can’ sentences in parallel. This is called isocolon, it’s another technique from classical rhetoric. More spell casting.
“I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy these days. I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real, but I also know they are not new. Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we’re all created equal and the harsh, ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear, demonization have long torn us apart. The battle is perennial and victory is never assured.” Well what do you know Joe’s playing the fool! A stock rhetorical move, but it’s premised here on the shaky assumption that there is greater wisdom in fools. And what does the fool claim but that American history has been the constant struggle of Equality against Reality. He recruits Jefferson from the Declaration of Independence! But this has never been the case. Joe’s being revisionist!
“Through civil war, the Great Depression, world war, 9/11, through struggle, sacrifice and setbacks, our better angels have always prevailed. In each of these moments, enough of us, enough of us have come together to carry all of us forward. And we can do that now. History, faith and reason show the way, the way of unity. We can see each other not as adversaries, but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature. For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury. No progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of chaos.” He’s continuing his revisionism, and now sliding in properties of that aforementioned ‘unity’. Apparently Unity is something we’re led to by History, Faith and Reason. Now put History aside because Joe’s a revisionist idiot on this as we’ve seen, and consider Faith and Reason. It is incredible to hear now that suddenly neoliberals are Thomists! How long have we as Christians been dealing with the myths surrounding Gallileo, Darwin, etc and battling this very notion that Faith and Reason are not opposed? How long have we been arguing the opposite? We have been the ones arguing for unity on this, the left has been defiant. He is clearly not talking about any kind of unity as generally understood – as we will continue to see. Look, he says here “We can see each other not as adversaries, but as neighbors” even though here, in this very speech, he has characterized us as “the mob”, “white supremacists” and “domestic terrorists”. Why how neighborly!
“This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge. And unity is the path forward. And we must meet this moment as the United States of America. If we do that, I guarantee you we will not fail. We have never, ever, ever, ever failed in America when we’ve acted together. And so today at this time in this place, let’s start afresh, all of us. Let’s begin to listen to one another again. Hear one another see one another, show respect to one another. Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire, destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war. And we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.” Ah, Good Neighbor Joe wants us to put aside the fact that he just disenfranchised America and stole the office, and let’s start afresh! For Unity!!! The terminus of History, Faith and Reason!!!
“My fellow Americans. We have to be different than this. America has to be better than this. And I believe America is so much better than this. Just look around. Here we stand in the shadow of the Capitol dome, as was mentioned earlier, completed amid the Civil War, when the union itself was literally hanging in the balance. Yet we endured, we prevailed.” Ah Neighbor Joe, the ‘fellow American’! He just whipped out his cattle prod with your name on it! You have to “be better than this!” This damned place sucks, “just look around”! Ah good old neighborly Joe and all that Unity!
“Here we stand looking out in the great mall where Dr. King spoke of his dream. Here we stand, where 108 years ago, at another inaugural, thousands of protesters tried to block brave women marching for the right to vote. And today we marked the swearing in of the first woman in American history elected to national office: Vice President Kamala Harris. Don’t tell me things can’t change.” Change!!! And more History.
“Here we stand across the Potomac from Arlington Cemetery, where heroes who gave the last full measure of devotion rest in eternal peace. And 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, to drive us from this sacred ground.” Riotous mob with Buffalo helmets who stormed their own Senate, “the sacredest place” to offer prayer to God! Do they live by you? Are they, God forbid, your NEIGHBORS!
“It did not happen. It will never happen. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.” Consider the repetitions.
“To all those who supported our campaign, I’m humbled by the faith you’ve placed in us. To all those who did not support us, let me say this. Hear me out as we move forward. Take a measure of me and my heart. If you still disagree so be it. That’s democracy. That’s America. The right to dissent, peaceably, the guardrails of our republic is perhaps this nation’s greatest strength.” Oh yes. “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism. I did hear that somewhere before in an age long forgotten.
“Yet hear me clearly: disagreement must not lead to disunion. And I pledge this to you, I will be a president for all Americans.7 All Americans. And I promise you I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.” Joe’s already demonized everybody he now says he’ll champion.
“Many centuries ago. Saint Augustine, a saint in my church, wrote to the people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love. Defined by the common objects of their love. What are the common objects we as Americans love, that define us as Americans? I think we know. Opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honor and yes, the truth.” Pedophiles are a multitude defined by their love of raping children. I think the good Saint Augustine had a lot more to say that Joe isn’t letting on. That work quoted by Joe, City of God, was occasioned by the Sack of Rome that shocked the world and shook confidence in all things temporal and worldly. Yes, the ultimate thing is truth, the saint said, even as the ultimate thing in Joe’s now SECOND or THIRD catalogue of American virtues is also truth. What could be Joe’s truth? Let’s see!
“Recent weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson. There is truth and there are lies, lies told for power and for profit. And each of us has a duty and responsibility, as citizens, as Americans, and especially as leaders, leaders who have pledged to honor our Constitution and protect our nation, to defend the truth and defeat the lies.” Sounds good, don’t it? Who are the liars and what are the lies, Neighbor Joe, Son of Unity?
“Look, I understand that many of my fellow Americans view the future with fear and trepidation. I understand they worry about their jobs. I understand, like my dad, they lay in bed at night, staring at the ceiling, wondering, can I keep my health care? Can I pay my mortgage? Thinking about their families, about what comes next. I promise you, I get it.” Holy Cow. Joe has unexpectedly and suddenly arrived at a concrete and real problem relating to Americans. Yes, how can we pay our mortgages? It is quite thing when large portions of the economy are shut down by fiat from the various governments, destroying any income many receive from the value of their labor. And meanwhile, a predatory rentier class exists whose pound of flesh cannot be denied, can it? No, never! Staring at the ceiling, your NEIGHBORS are, wondering how can they pay their mortgage? Here is an opportunity for Joe! Here Joe has for the first time in all of this spell-casting and rhetorical invocations, identified a concrete problem. What’s he going to do?
“But the answer is not to turn inward, to retreat into competing factions, distrusting those who don’t look like look like you or worship the way you do, or don’t get their news from the same sources you do. We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts. If we show a little tolerance and humility, and if we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes, as my mom would say, just for a moment, stand in their shoes. Because here’s the thing about life. There’s no accounting for what fate will deal you. Some days, when you need a hand. There are other days when we’re called to lend a hand. That’s how it has to be. That’s what we do for one another. And if we are this way, our country will be stronger, more prosperous, more ready for the future. And we can still disagree.” Wow it’s a total bust. Despite the opening exhortation that “the answer is not to turn inward”, Joe’s answer is that you should nevertheless do exactly that! Joe’s answer is that you have nobody else to blame but yourself and how dare you? You cannot blame the other, how monstrous! You require a dose of tolerance and humility, boy! Stand in those shoes of your banker (and pretend for a second that you don’t have a discount window to the Fed), and so forth! When you call up Citibank to say, “Citibank, lend me a hand!” be sure to remind them what Neighbor Joe, Son of Unity, has told you today.
“My fellow Americans, in the work ahead of us, we’re going to need each other. We need all our strength to persevere through this dark winter. We’re entering what may be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus. We must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as One Nation. One Nation!” More dark winter for Joe. It’s becoming a literary theme for Neighbor Joe, Son of Unity! Note the ‘One Nation’ repetition and desperate invocation.
“And I promise you this, as the Bible says, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” We will get through this together. Together.” Together, together. I hope by this point that I’ve heightened your awareness of the spells they cast, and how to identify them. Repetition is key thing! It’s the major device of rhetoric, spells and also prayers. So look it’s not always bad! But, train your ears! Something is afoot with it. Joe’s quoting a pslam here, you can go read it. It is a pslam from a man who just emerged from Sheol, make of it what you will.
“Look, folks, all my colleagues I served with in the House of the Senate up there, we all understand the world is watching, watching all of us today. So here’s my message to those beyond our borders. America has been tested and we’ve come out stronger for it. We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again. Not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. And we’ll lead, not merely by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.” Here Joe introduces foreign policy for the first time in the speech. The striking thing is that he does it plainly, with no obvious rhetorical games. This is probably the first thing that he’s said in this speech that he actually believes in, and doesn’t require spells.
“We’ll be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress and security. Look, you all know, we’ve been through so much in this nation. And my first act as president, I’d like to ask you to join me in a moment of silent prayer to remember all those who we lost this past year to the pandemic. Those four hundred thousand fellow Americans, moms, dads, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, friends, neighbors and co-workers. We will honor them by becoming the people and the nation we know we can and should be. So I ask you, let’s say a silent prayer for those who’ve lost their lives, those left behind and for our country.“
A moment of silence occurs, followed by an Amen.
“Folks, this is a time of testing. We face an attack on our democracy and on truth, a raging virus, growing inequity, the sting of systemic racism, a climate in crisis, America’s role in the world. Any one of these will be enough to challenge us in profound ways. But the fact is, we face them all at once, presenting this nation with one of the gravest responsibilities we’ve had. Now we’re going to be tested. Are we going to step up? All of us? It’s time for boldness, for there is so much to do. And this is certain, I promise you, we will be judged, you and I, by how we resolve these cascading crises of our era.” This is Joe at his most honest point in the speech. There is no guile here.
“Will we rise to the occasion, is the question. Will we master this rare and difficult hour? Will we meet our obligations and pass along a new and better world to our children? I believe we must. I’m sure you do as well. I believe we will. And when we do, we’ll write the next great chapter in the history of the United States of America. The American story. A story that might sound something like a song that means a lot to me. It’s called American Anthem. There’s one verse that stands out, at least for me, and it goes like this:” Well that was shortlived. Notice how he picks up with the parallel “I believe” statements, then a strategic rhetorical repetition of the word “story”… cranking it back up to what? Well golly, yet another national anthem! Most Americans were shocked this year to discover that we had two anthems. Welcome to three!
“The work and prayers of a century have brought us to this day.What shall be our legacy? What will our children say? Let me know in my heart when my days are through. America, America, I gave my best to you.” Those are the lyrics.
“Let’s add. Let us add our own work and prayers to the unfolding story of our great nation. If we do this, then when our days are through, our children and our children’s children will say of us: They gave their best, they did their duty, they healed a broken land.” ‘Let’s add’ invocation. I hope you see.
“My fellow Americans, I close the day where I began, with a sacred oath before God and all of you. I give you my word, I will always level with you. I will defend the Constitution. I’ll defend our democracy. I’ll defend America and I will give all, all of you. Keep everything I do in your service, thinking not of power, but of possibilities, not of personal interest, but the public good. And together we shall write an American story of hope, not fear. Of unity, not division. Of light, not darkness. A story of decency and dignity, love and healing, greatness and goodness. May this be the story that guides us. The story that inspires us and the story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history. We met the moment. Democracy and hope, truth and justice did not die on our watch, but thrived. That America secured liberty at home and stood once again as a beacon to the world. That is what we owe our forbearers, one another and generations to follow.” Your eyes should be trained now. Do you see the doublets “I will” leading up to the triplets of “I’ll defend” leading to the chorus of ‘of’s? We have “of power” then “of possibilities” then “not of personal interest” then “of hope, not fear” then, at last: “Of unity, not division. Of light, not darkness.” This is the climax. The spell is cast.
“So, with purpose and resolve, we turn to those tasks of our time. Sustained by faith, driven by conviction, devoted to one another and the country we love with all our hearts. May God bless America and may God protect our troops. Thank you, America.” Closes with God blessing America but protecting the troops? What why not protect America too and bless the troops too? what? What kind of disjoint unity can’t actually be Unity?