A Winter of Peril, But Light Beckons

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INAUGURATION DAY, 2021 — Just two weeks after insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol and attempted to stage a coup, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was sworn in as our 46th president. Democracy has prevailed. The United States continued a tradition of peaceful transition of power that has occurred in this country every four years since 1789 — 232 years. The snow flurries that swirled around as the dignitaries filed into this socially distanced event gave way to sunshine as Biden took office. My eyes filled with tears again and again.

Four years ago, when his predecessor was sworn in, I was attending a Texas Press Association  conference in Frisco. I skipped one of the events in order to watch President Trump, who talked of ending the carnage in America. Regardless of who you voted for in 2016 or last November, it is fair to say the carnage has only gotten worse in the past four years. If there is any doubt in anyone’s minds of the intent of those who stormed the Capitol — including folks from East Texas, sadly — watch the video taken by Luke Mogelson, a veteran war correspondent and contributing writer to The New Yorker. (https://www.newyorker.com/news/video-dept/a-reporters-footage-from-inside-the-capitol-siege) Mogelson followed the rioters inside as they desecrated the Capitol, took over the Senate chambers, talked of forming a new government and then — incredibly — knelt in prayer while occupying the rostrum. Talk about sacrilegious. The video is both sad and sickening.

That horrible event makes what happened on Jan. 20 even more compelling and heartening, no matter where you stand politically. As Biden put it, this transition in power is both “commonplace and miraculous,” especially when considering the mayhem of a fortnight earlier.

We are in a “winter of peril,” as Biden said in his inaugural speech. We have surpassed 400,000 deaths from the pandemic and likely will top a half-million by March. The vaccine rollout has gone poorly, and that is understandably his first priority. Besides the pandemic and the mass misery it has caused, millions of people are unemployed, thousands of businesses have shuttered, racial injustice continues, and climate change threatens our future. The tasks that await the Biden administration are daunting indeed. He deserves our prayers.

Actually, President Biden deserves far more than our thoughts and prayers. The 74 million Americans who did not vote for him must give Biden a chance to succeed, to help end this pandemic and revive our economy, to restore our tattered standing in the world. The 81 million of us who voted for Biden should not take this opportunity to gloat or to attack those with whom we do not agree. Let us all do everything we can to work together, to be united in purpose and spirit. Let us be kind to each other.

I will make an exception to this. I have many Republican friends and acquaintances; I live in East Texas, after all. But those who subscribe to the crackpot theories that compelled folks to think this election was stolen; who follow QAnon and felt compelled to travel to Washington, D.C. to invade the Capitol; who even on the morning of the election believed that some secret force would swoop in to arrest Biden and his supporters and restore Trump to the presidency (I read this on an East Texas person’s post) — these people should be marginalized. The lunatic fringe has always been among us, unfortunately. Pay them no mind. It is fine to disagree over policies. It is not OK to disagree over facts.

Let’s seek the light, as the youngest inaugural poet at 22, Amanda Gorman, so eloquently said, in a poem she wrote after the Capitol insurrection: There is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.

It is time for a new beginning. A lot of work is ahead of us to heal this country, but it can be done.

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