Today marks one of my rare forays into politics. Today is a day that I, along with so many others, have been awaiting for four years.
I’m under no illusion that there aren’t a lot of things that are dysfunctional, or flat out broken, in this country; Joe Biden and Kamala Harris face a supremely heavy lift. But today I’m allowing myself to reach for a glass of optimism (as well as, later tonight, a flute of chilled Veuve Clicquot).
Among so many other things, it was nice to see our incoming President and Vice President solemnly acknowledge and honor the 400,000 Americans who have died during the pandemic.
Over these last four years, I’ve been buoyed by the writing of several fine journalists, Peter Wehner among them. I was especially taken by these words from a piece of his published on The Atlantic‘s web site in late December:
There’s a lovely line in William Wordsworth’s poem “The Prelude”: “What we have loved, Others will love, and we will teach them how.”
There are still things worthy of our love. Honor, decency, courage, beauty, and truth. Tenderness, human empathy, and a sense of duty. A good society. And a commitment to human dignity. We need to teach others—in our individual relationships, in our classrooms and communities, in our book clubs and Bible studies, and in innumerable other settings—why those things are worthy of their attention, their loyalty, their love. One person doing it won’t make much of a difference; a lot of people doing it will create a culture.
Maybe we understand better than we did five years ago why these things are essential to our lives, and why when we neglect them or elect leaders who ridicule and subvert them, life becomes nasty, brutish, and generally unpleasant.
[Today], a new and necessary chapter will begin in the American story. Joe Biden will certainly play a role in shaping how that story turns out—but so will you and I. Ours is a good and estimable republic, if we can keep it.
Today, I wish a good man and a good woman Godspeed on the journey they’re beginning. I, for one, am on board for the ride.
The two photos at the top of this post display the work of Seattle-based artist Rudy Willingham, of whose creativity I am insanely jealous.