By Jodi Anderson-Wolhaupter
Date Posted 11/01/2020
Hallelujah! Joe Biden has been declared President-Elect. Equally exhilarating is the symbolic election of Kamala Harris as this country’s first female vice president and first VP of color, from Jamaican and Indian heritage. On this the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, Kamala Harris rises to the second highest office in the land, a feat never imagined by the “Founding Fathers.” There has been so much jubilation today! People have been pouring out on the streets, dancing like children with unabandoned joy, because they finally feel like their country, their democracy, their rights did not abandon them. The process works. Believe in its integrity when the people have the power.
Today reminds me of ?It’s a Wonderful Life ? . When Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey leans over the bridge and desperately clasps together his hands in prayer, pleading, “Please, Lord. I want to live again. I want to live again”--that is what this election has meant to so many. Over 74.5 million of us united to vote, sending a clear message that we want to live again in a more peaceful, appreciative world. Joe Biden, with his decency and humility and sense of service, is very much a reflection of George Bailey. He is about making people’s lives better. Antithetically, Trump is like the greedy, self-absorbed character of Mr. Potter, who ran Bedford Falls into an immoral, monopolized cesspool of bars, gambling halls, and capitalistic callousness, where neighbor turned on neighbor and lives were ruined without the saving grace of social assistance programs or caring people. (Ironically, Bedford Falls resembles Seneca Falls, the place where the first women’s rights convention was held in 1848, launching the suffrage movement.)
Today’s announcement that Biden carried Pennsylvania, the state of his birth, resuscitated the nation’s “better angels.” Even rose-gold wisps of clouds around tonight’s sunset seemed reminiscent of angel wings. “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all,” as Emily Dickinson wrote. And yet, like George Bailey, this country has been on the precipice of a suicidal desperation under Trump’s tyranny of the last four years. People held their breath, almost in anticipation of hearing the death knell of democracy. We cried out through our collective ballots, like a prayer to the future to redeem us, and the votes came in like the snowflakes at the end of George’s prayer--slow, beautiful, divinely soft and steady. And that was our sign: We have returned to a better place, the place before the nightmare. We can live again! We can live again!
Now, the temptation is to run into the streets, rejoicing like George, and yes, oh yes, let us breathe in the deep, relaxing breath of hope, for this has been the year of the breath denied, with the coronavirus and George Floyd. People need to breathe again. But, let us take only a minute to breathe in deep, for then we must dive down to do the deep work of repairing. The vitriol that has surfaced over the last four years may have been stoked by Trump, but it is living inside the hearts and minds of over 70 million people who voted for Trump. It is the war cry of our agonizing history of division, based on, as Isabel Wilkerson writes, a caste system that inherently values white patriarchy and has conditioned so many into believing that they are entitled to a certain kind of life, privilege, and power. They may not even know that their anger is actually rooted in fear over the disruption of this status quo, but that is where the work must start. Reflective conversations have never mattered more. As Joe Biden has said from the start, this election has been about protecting the heart and soul of America. The work to do is about rebuilding our body politic. Over 230,000 citizens have died from COVID in the last eight months. Some 545 children at the border remain orphans separated from their parents who cannot be located, two and a half years since they were ruthlessly torn apart while seeking asylum at the U.S-Mexico border. A bigoted bravado has swept across this land, unleashing a Pandora’s box of hatred and a blinded belief in the pandemic as nothing more than a “hoax.”
At this moment, we must start a new era of reconstruction, literally and metaphorically. Joe Biden is saving us and Kamala Harris is elevating us to reach higher for the fruits of equality and justice for all. Lord, we thank you for helping us live again, and we ask you to be with us as we must first learn to live with each other, perhaps for the first time.