Here’s the thing: I really love America.
For better or worse, for all the opportunities given and those taken away. For all the times I’ve felt encouraged and those awful defeats… this is my country. It’s where I was born and where I will die. This is my home. Today, January 20th, I am reminded of how much I love it.
I’ve been working on my final installment of a series on fascism. After four years of the Trump administration, how could I not? I will return to it soon. Our future depends upon not allowing any person or movement to push us any further back than we have already fallen. But for today, having just watched the inauguration of our new President Joe Biden and our first woman VP Kamala Harris (who is making history in so many ways), I must first share my bursting heart.
We have achieved something monumental today.
This was a peaceful transition of power on the heels of a presidency that brought us closer to a fascist dictatorship than we have been in over a century. Norms matter. Policies matter and yes, the presidency matters. If I ever again hear someone say that it doesn’t, I just might pound the table until my hands bleed. We might not get everything we want from a single policy or a single president, but as long as we have true democracy in this country we have the opportunity to influence and most importantly, to take a stand when it really matters.
I remember when I realized I liked being an American – when I got it in my gut that I was a real, proud American. Having grown up in a progressive household with an honest picture of what was right and wrong with my country, it took leaving the US for me to understand this. In my mid-twenties I traveled to Europe for the first time. I started in London and took a train through France, the Alps and all the way to Istanbul before heading home through Greece and Rome. It was a spectacular trip, especially for someone who never expected to be able to travel that young. I encountered different cultures, languages, 300-year-old houses and thousand-year-old tomb stones for the first time. People didn’t do everything the way I did, which made me realize how many assumptions I made about behavior and interactions with others.
I saw how much more aware and better educated people in these other countries were about the world in general. Even a casual conversation over pints in a Greenwich pub. They had a depth of knowledge about events in Europe, Africa, and the mid-east that was far beyond what I was used to. I shared a train car with a young German family that didn’t speak my language, but looked out for me. At three o’clock in the morning, they helped me get through a border crossing when I lacked the proper visa. We were behind the iron curtain and I could have been in real trouble. Instead, they tried to talk a Yugoslavian customs officer out of waking me up. I got fleeced for every bit of currency I had on me in that train station, but I know those strangers kept me from a much worse fate.
That trip opened my eyes and my life to a much deeper appreciation for the world, its land and its people. It also made me realize that for all of our trials and failures, I love my country. I love being an American.
As an American, I am eternally aspirational. No matter how far down the rabbit hole we go or how painful it may be to watch, we can pull ourselves back from the brink. Today we did just that.
As an American, I am eternally aspirational. No matter how far down the rabbit hole we go or how painful it may be to watch, we can pull ourselves back from the brink. Today, we did just that.
With so many suffering from every side – the majority of us stood up for democracy. This is no small accomplishment. Peaceful transfer of power in the face of a would-be dictator is no small thing. And for the first time in history, a woman of color – someone who looks, thinks and talks like I do – is in the white house. She was put there by millions of people who worked very hard to make it so. That includes the generations of African American women in Georgia who organized and marched and voted to make it so. Against all odds, they helped save our democracy. This cannot and does not happen in every other country on the globe. It is part of what makes us uniquely American.
These are historic times. There is sure to be more trouble ahead. But for today, I am proud and comforted to see the traditions of our inauguration ceremony upheld.
I am humbled and grateful to watch an old white man and a younger brown woman take power together. I am relieved and overjoyed to remember that for all their threats and even after the attack on our capitol building, last weekend there was a “scant turnout” of right-wing protestors at the capitol in my home state. Hardly anyone showed up.
Today, for the first time since last May, I thought to myself: “I can breathe.” Then I watched Vice President Kamala Harris swear in three new democratic senators.
In the days to come, we need to keep this in our minds and in our hearts. This is our country. We who believe in freedom are the majority.
Now it’s time to lead.