I almost didn’t watch the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as President and Vice-President of the United States. After the turmoil and outlandish events of the last four years, it felt anticlimactic. A part of me didn’t even believe it was real. I just wanted to blink and have new leaders and try to forget the old ones. I felt giddy, full of rage, and numb all at the same time.
But then one of my message threads started popping. I met the women in this group after the 2016 election. They have listened to me bitch, moan, rage, cry, and wallow in the depths of despair the last four years. I would not have kept my sanity without them.
So if they were going to watch, so was I.
And I’m so glad I did. Chill bumps popped up on my skin when I turned on the coverage. Seeing former Presidents and First Ladies, Republicans and Democrats, rejoice in the triumph of democracy was hopeful. Refreshing.
The flags, the pomp and circumstance, the bright sunshine, it all promised a new day in America, the return of hope and optimism to this country and all of us blessed and lucky to live here. I was proud, not embarrassed. It felt good to be proud again.
I was electrified as the first Madam Vice-President took the oath of office. Much has been written about the historic milestone of this day, but even so I felt my breath catch in my throat. Historic, indeed.
As Joe Biden began addressing America for the first time as President, I took a deep, cleansing breath. And then another one. And another. He was not my first, or even second, choice for the Democratic nominee, but there he was: a testament to a persistent and steadfast democracy.
I was reminded of the way he spoke to America on November 7th, 2020, the Friday after the election and the day before the election was called in his favor. He spoke as a leader who wished to uplift us as Americans, to unite us as nation in the hope and spirit of democracy, troubled though we may be. In that moment I felt a visceral pang of longing for leaders who inspire us, not denigrate and divide us. I realized in that moment how much I’d missed the comfort and reassurance of a steady hand the last four years. I was astonished at how accustomed I had become to the hateful attitude of the last administration. How refreshing it was to be inspired by a national leader.
Patriotic words have value.
That sense of relief and hope returned as President Biden laid out the truths of democracy, and America, with his words. This moment in time is a victory for democracy, as it is precious and fragile, as we have seen.
Although our unique American way is restless and bold, we’ve become a nation of anger, resentment, hatred, and hopelessness, yet we can disagree without going to war. We need to stop the shouting and lower the temperature. Outrage is exhausting.
President Biden asked us to open our souls, not harden our hearts. This is very, very difficult for some of us. Admittedly, my home base is anger and outrage and my fury has only grown in the last four years. Exponentially. What if my heart is already hardened?
I’m one of those wafflers who fluctuate between, “Unity? Are you kidding me? Where has your unity been for the last four years? We need accountability and consequences!” to “When they go low, we go high,” and “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I can fluctuate between the two quicker than a chicken on a June bug.
Over the last four years I’ve tried to have conversations with those who don’t share my opinions. I’ve genuinely tried to understand their points of view. Often those exercises end in frustration and disbelief. Other times, I am able to see a different side to the story, even if I don’t agree with it. In once recent example, a friend called out the hypocrisy of an action I was defending and he was right. I saw something I hadn’t seen before, but I couldn’t let myself admit he was right on that particular point without calling out all the ways his side is also hypocritical. I hate Whataboutism. It solves nothing even it feels good. So I left the conversation right there. I couldn’t continue because I didn’t know how. How can I take the first step even if I demand an honest answer in return? If I can’t make that move, how can I ask other people to?
Reconciliation is not in my nature. Even as I watched today’s hopeful speech I want to say something snarky about Biden talking more about the pandemic in this one speech than Trump did for the last 6 months. I’m trying to leave that behind and let my better angels prevail.
So, for what it’s worth, I will try to open my heart. In the meantime, Girls Group Chat, I’ll see you soon.