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America Lost. America Found.

by Frank F Islam

They’ve all come to look for America.

-Simon & Garfunkel

O, let America be America again

The land that never has been yet —

– Langston Hughes

America is a land of being and becoming. A democratic republic that has been in existence for 244 years. And a nation still in search of itself.

The nature and results of this year’s presidential election prove this search will take years, and possibly decades, to reach the “more perfect union” envisioned by the founding fathers. Joe Biden’s winning the presidency by a narrow margin in an extremely divided country, both nationally and within these so-called “United States,” attest to that stark reality.

The presidential election was more proof that 2020 has been the year of living dangerously for Americans. 2020 was also the year of magical thinking by the President regarding COVID-19.

Because of this many Americans did not live through the year. They died prematurely.

Others lost their lives in police confrontations. Others lost their jobs. Others lost their businesses. Others lost hope for racial justice. Others lost faith in the American dream. Others lost the ability to be civil. Others lost the capacity to respect their fellow man and woman. Others lost themselves and their family and friends.

The losses have been staggering and far too many to enumerate.

Can that which was lost be found again? Can new things be discovered to replace those things which were lost?

First, let’s look briefly at the impact of these losses on the American psyche and spirit. The New York Times Sunday Review published on November 1 was titled “What Have We Lost?” The introduction to that section stated, “All 15 of our columnists explain what the past four years have cost America, and what’s at stake in this election.”

Here is a sampling of what those columnists wrote. Nicholas Kristoff: Trump has exploited and betrayed my friends. Jennifer Senior: Trump has normalized selfishness. Bret Stephens: Republicans have trashed their reputation. Frank Bruni: I don’t look at America in the same way. Roger Cohen: He severed America from the idea of America.

On the day after the election New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman opened his opinion piece , “We still do not know who is the winner of the presidential election. But we do know who is the loser: the United States of America.” Friedman went on to state, “We have just experienced four years of the most divisive and dishonest presidency in American history which attacked the twin pillars of our democracy — truth and trust.”

Friedman calls trust and truth pillars. We see them as the glue that holds democracy together. No matter what they are labeled, or which order they come in, truth and trust are integral to a functioning democracy.

In October 2020, former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg released his book, Trust. In a phone call with the New York Times, Mayor Pete said, “There is unquestionably a crisis of trust and trustworthiness in our country — trust in our institutions, trust in each other, global trust in America as a whole.”

Much has been lost in this year which is drawing to a close. What has been found during that same time period?

The most important and overriding finding, because of this contentious election cycle and its outcomes, must be that America as a country and we as citizens are extremely divided. That chasm is urban-rural, racial, sexual, educational, generational, religious, and regional.

There are the parameters of the chasm which must be bridged. This insight is depressing but not debilitating. It defines the nature and extent of the problem. It indicates the level of heavy lifting that will be required to create a sense of shared unity among the citizens of this great nation.

While this division/polarization/chasm finding is distressing, there are other findings that this election has revealed that are inspiring. Three primary ones include: the level of civic participation; the hard work done to maintain and ensure election integrity; and the continuity of the American democracy.

Historically, America has not been known for high levels of voter turnout. But this year the turnout rate of 66.9% is the highest rate since 1900 when it was 73.7%.

What has also been awesome is the excellent job that those people who work in election offices in states and counties across this country do to ensure the integrity of the election process. They have persisted this year to do their duties in an objective and rigorous manner, as they have in the past, despite the fraudulent charges being levied by the President and a few of his conspiracy theory compatriots about election fraud.

The Democrats and Republicans working in America’s polling places protect and make democracy work fairly and fully for all. And because of their impartial and patriotic contributions, the 2020 results are unassailable, and American democracy will continue to move forward rather than being pushed into retrograde.

There was considerable worry before the election that a Trump victory and four more years in office would be deleterious for, and possibly even destroy, the American democracy.

Joe Biden has now been declared the president-elect. But that does not mean the future of our democracy is guaranteed.

There is no question that President Trump has governed in an autocratic fashion and contributed to a deterioration of the American democracy. He is not the root cause of it, however. Truth be told, the decline of our democracy predates Trump’s presidency.

Joe Biden’s election represents the opportunity for us as citizens to unite and to improve our report card. His election provides that because it brings the right leadership, plans, and agenda for the nation in these divisive and trying times.

One of the standard clichés in politics is that the person newly elected to office should be ready to govern on day one. Because of the former vice president’s significant knowledge and substantial prior experience, he will be ready to govern well before day one. There will be no learning curve.

The same can be said for the team that Biden will bring with him to run the American government. Vice President Biden’s campaign has had a transition team in place, working diligently to prepare for assuming the reins of government and restoring normalcy to government operations, since the summer.

In terms of plans, the Biden campaign is putting a comprehensive and robust set of plans in place to be implemented in priority order. At the top of that list, are COVID-19 and economic plans.

Then there is Biden’s agenda for the nation. It is an agenda of unity.

It is not an agenda for plutocrats, populists, or progressives. It is an agenda for the people. It is not an agenda for the red states or blue states. It is an agenda for the United States. It is an agenda to bring people together.

Near the opening of his victory speech on November 7, President-elect Biden declared,

“I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide, but to unify.

Who doesn’t see red and blue states but a United States.

And who will work with all my heart to win the confidence of the whole people.

For that is what America is about: the people.”

Later in his speech, Biden spoke directly to Trump supporters, saying;

“And, to those who voted for President Trump, I understand your disappointment tonight.

I’ve lost a couple of elections myself

But , now let’s give each other a chance.

It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric.

To lower the temperature.

To see each other again.

To listen to each other again.”

To make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy. We are not enemies. We are Americans.

Those are meaningful words and a powerful message. Coming from someone else, they might not be believable. But coming from Joe Biden as the messenger, they are. Because he is the message and this is the way he has lived his life of public service.

On December 23, 1776, during the darkest days of the Revolutionary War, Thomas Paine wrote, “These are the time that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from their service; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

Joe Biden is asking all Americans to join with him in the search for America during this time of crisis. We believe in America and Americans. We believe that concerned citizens of all stripes will hear his message and will enlist with him to discover common ground and the common good.

When they do what America has lost will be found. There will be truth and trust once again.

 

thesatime | The Southasian times

Frank F Islam

Frank Islam is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, civic leader, and writer who heads the FI Investment Group. President Obama appointed him to the Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2013.

 

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