A new day

My family of origin would spend Christmas one year at home in Maine and the next year with my grandparents who lived in the Carolinas. On our journey home from those visits, we invariably spent a day in Washington, DC. One or more Smithsonian museums was always part of the stopover. As time permitted and competing interests desired, we went to other sites.

One year in the mid-1960s (I do not remember the exact year), we visited the U.S. Capitol. There were no entry tickets, security checkpoints or mandatory tours. We simply wandered around the building on our own. I vividly remember that at one point we found ourselves unable to go forward. A guard blocked the entrance to what in retrospect was probably the Senate floor. An intrepid pre-teen, I told my family to follow me and led them to an elevator that took us to the next floor. Only when I exited the elevator did I notice asmall sign by the elevator’s entrance that read “Senators Only.”

A new day has dawned. No longer are such adventures possible. Long before the riots on January 6, 2021, security had become a pervasive reality of twenty-first century American life.

Today, the Capitol appears to be a cross between a well-guarded government facility and a monument to the American democratic experiment. The U.S. needs to recover the idea that its government is of, by and for the people (cf. What to do about Donald Trump – part 2).

We concurrently need to preserve the greater justice that exists in the U.S. than existed in the mid-1960s and in all of the decades back to the nation’s founding. More people have the right to vote than ever before. More humans are legally persons rather than chattel (think of women and people of color). Justice, glaringly imperfect and still in urgent need of major reform, nevertheless exists more fully than in prior generations. Cries to return to a mythic Christian nationalism are actually a summons to evil. Many of the most prominent founders were deists, not Christians. Lies to the contrary are insidious and evil. The phrase Christian nationalism is in fact code for white male supremacy disconnected from Jesus, preferably white, property-owning, gun toting, male supremacy. I, for one, much prefer to live in 2021 rather than in 1965 or 1785.

Today, Joseph Biden took the oath as the forty-sixth President of the United States of America. A new day has dawned. Deliberate chaos, intentional lying and sycophantic demands will no longer characterize the president. Biden is too aware of his clay feet. And although Joe Biden has lost some elections, he has never been a loser in the same sense as was his predecessor. I hope Biden’s inauguration will initiate among the citizenry, elected officials and government employees a renewed civic decency and respect, a resurgent commitment to the rule of law and a revitalized commitment to good government.


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