Alan Zendell, November 26, Thanksgiving Day, 2020
President Elect Joe Biden approached the microphone with a somber, stately bearing. The day before Thanksgiving in this horror show of a year needed his special brand of calm, almost spiritual reassurance. Some will undoubtedly call his remarks a political speech, but what most Americans heard, along with the rest of the world, was a heartfelt plea to re-unite the country under a wide banner of inclusion. It was a low-keyed, optimistic pep talk for a weary nation that has suffered terribly under the mis-administration of its pandemic response by a lame duck president who continued to attack the structure of democracy as Biden began the monumental task of cleaning up the mess of death and disease he will soon inherit.
Biden’s words of hope and encouragement were a combination of a loving patriarch supporting his family through a terrible ordeal, an optimistic message of renewal for a better future, and a sermon from the pulpit. There was no live audience, no sound at all other than Biden’s soothing, emotional voice pleading for calm and determination to stay safe while the government prepares to distribute COVID vaccines. It didn’t require a sound track, but I could easily imagine The Byrds singing Pete Seeger’s timeless Turn, Turn, Turn in the background. I can’t think of anything more fitting than those words from Ecclesiastes:
There is a season
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late.
It’s not too late. Things happen the way they do for a reason. Maybe Biden’s previous runs for President failed because the universe knew they were happening too soon. He is a special kind of leader, someone who should have been saved for the moment we most needed him. That time is now. Biden is the perfect anti-Trump.
As he spoke yesterday, his age, the tiredness we sometimes saw during the brutal election campaign was replaced by a calm, avuncular charm. After two years in which Trump attacked his family, accused him of preparing to lead us in to Communism, and exacerbated the divisiveness that has been his trademark, the was no anger in Biden’s appeal, no rancor in his demeanor. The majority of Americans heard that, as did our traditional allies overseas. In most of the world, people breathed a sigh of relief at the words, “America is back.”
Preventing another quarter million Americans from dying of COVID will be daunting. Trump continues to lay down a mine field of obstacles out of pure spite, heedless that every day that passes without convincing Americans to wear masks and stop gathering in crowds costs thousands of lives. The contrast between Biden’s message and the small-minded, petty Trump, who is willing to extend a fight to overturn an election he cannot possibly win, while businesses fail, Americans depend on food banks and fall behind in rent and mortgage payments, and our children’s education is disrupted, is simply appalling.
Six months, a year, a decade from now, we’ll be looking back at all this wondering how we ever got to such a pass, asking ourselves how the United States could have become the object of pity and concern by the rest of the civilized world. How could the divisions in our country have been so deep and so long ignored that we retreated into an isolationist reality evolving toward fascism, racism, elitism and misogyny?
There will be time for all that later. Today, we can safely focus on famiy and friends, and truly give thanks that the nightmare of Trumpism, if not completely behind us, is at least on hold. In eight weeks we will have a president who cares about people, and treats everyone with dignity regardless of who they are. He cares about our planet, and he will undo the reckless abandonment of environmental regulations. General Motors, once the symbol of American industrial prowess, yesterday rejected Trump’s disdain for the environment, announcing that they were all in on restoring reduced emissions standards and on track to go all-electric with their future vehicles.
Timing is everything. While Trump continues to prove how truly unfit he is to lead, alienating those Republicans who want to see their party return to its core values, we can ignore him today. Celebrating with our families on Zoom isn’t the same as hugging them, but as Joe said, we’ve been through worse, and we only have to hang on a little longer.