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I didn't pop any champagne to celebrate President Joe Biden taking office.
Here's the thing: I'm too exhausted and wary to feel truly elated. I feel like I've been living in a war zone. President Donald Trump relied on insult rhetoric, lies and tantrums to get his points across. The January 6th attack on the Capitol was no surprise to anyone who was paying attention. When Twitter finally shut off Trump's main mouthpiece, it took a week for the noise of his nimble, angry thumbs to subside in my head.
I'm not a knee-jerk liberal. My father was a Navy officer. My mother — and many others in my family — are Republicans. I know that Trump didn't create the racists, misogynists, nationalists, fear-mongers and conspiracy theorists in this country. They've always been here. All he did was give them permission. Look! You can grab women by the whatever! You don't have to pay taxes! You can build a wall! You don't have to wear a mask because you can dominate that virus! You can get impeached but nothing really happens to you!
As Trump noted in his farewell speech, “We did what we came here to do — and so much more.”
He sure did.
In his first days in office, President Biden has promised us everything from a COVID-19 recovery plan to immigration reform and a new focus on climate change. Trump entered the White House with big plans to make America great, too. So what's different?
At the very least, we now have an actual adult in the White House, a man whose belief in social justice and big heart is evident in almost everything he does. A man who believes in democracy and has spent virtually his whole life serving the public.
We need each other -- not only to make it through these dark pandemic days, but for all of the fresh challenges ahead.
As a former teacher who has raised five children of her own, I know that kids learn best not by adults telling them the right way to behave, but by watching whatever behaviors the adults around them are modeling.
I was astonished, for instance, when my 1-year-old daughter found a rubber band on the ground, picked it up, and hung it on the kitchen doorknob. I'd never taught her to do that, but she'd seen me do it many times.
And, when my youngest son saw me crying after our dog died, he put his arms around me and said, “Don't worry. Tomorrow will be a better day.” The same words I often said to him whenever he was upset.
President Biden will make mistakes. He will enact legislation that angers people. He has none of Trump's charisma or Barack Obama's eloquence. But we now have a president who promises us that tomorrow will be a better day. An adult who reminds us, through his own actions, of the fine arts of civility, compromise and being humble in the face of important work. A man whose love for his family and country will, I hope, inspire us to see that the people we disagree with are not demons, but humans who need compassion and healing as much as we do.
It's not a champagne moment, maybe, but it's a start. As Biden pointed out during his inaugural speech, politics doesn't have to be a raging, destructive fire. It can be people working together, here and between countries. We need each other — not only to make it through these dark pandemic days, but for all of the fresh challenges ahead.
“My whole soul is in this,” Biden said, echoing President Abraham Lincoln's address when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
Amen. May all of us give our whole souls to healing this country together.
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