Welcome, President Biden and Madam Vice-President Harris!
Along with my children I cheered with awe and wonder today as Kamala Harris was sworn in as Vice-President of the United States of America, and I both exhaled and wept as President Joe Biden made his first speech as President of these United States...after so much that has been painfully challenging over the past 4 years. My children saw history in the making today and we talked about it's significance. They can't appreciate it as I do, but at least they heard their mother acknowledge what a momentous occasion it was to have a South Asian/African-American WOMAN take the oath of office for the 2nd highest position in this country.
It seems that I have spent much of my adult life unpacking, rearranging, discarding, and replacing those unexamined ideas that were central to my formative years. The role of politics and my relationship with it is an area in which I feel woefully behind. As a child and young adult I do not remember hearing anyone talk about politics in any way other than to promote the evangelical agenda of using the political arena as a way to gain power for those values that were deemed vital by the religious world I was a part of. Between Jerry Falwell Sr. with his Moral Majority and James Dobson with his "Focus on the Family" organization (both highly influential in the conservative evangelical world in which I was raised) it seemed as if the purpose of political action was to maintain "traditional family values," oppose the Equal Rights Amendment, prohibit abortion, and support Christian prayer in schools.
It is difficult to articulate the many ways these ideas were reinforced from the pulpit by self-aggrandizing preachers who took upon themselves the responsibility of telling their congregants how to think, vote, and behave. Although it took me years to get enough distance to begin to reject the simplistic, binary perspective required to hold such a system together, I am still shaking my head in disbelief at how affected I am by that system. I have seldom been a part of robust, diverse, and thoughtful political conversations and consequently I have never been terribly interested in politics. There's much about political science, government, and economics that I still don't understand and I recognize that I will forever be filling in so many gaps in my knowledge of these areas.
I do know, however, that I grew up on the wrong side of history; the perspective of the world I grew up in is nearly 180 degrees removed from my current perspective on so many issues. Today I see the separation of church and state as a fundamentally vital aspect of our governance and I regularly cringe at the ways the lines are blurred and a Christian view of God is invoked to approve unquestioningly a myriad of beliefs and behaviors within the political arena; I support Equal Rights for ALL people regardless of their gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, religious belief, ability, age, or socio-economic status; and my beliefs about the value of human life includes comprehensive sex education that informs people of all ages how to care for and protect their sexual health and well-being while providing a broad range of choices and compassionate emotional and physical care for those who face difficult decisions of all kinds along the way.
Watching the inauguration today highlighted for me just how much I value kindness, decency, respect, truth, and compassion. After four long years of not ever wanting to see our 45th President speak because he was often angry, hateful, unkind, and pushing a self-serving agenda that felt both inhuman and reminiscent of my childhood, watching and listening to President Biden today was both a ray of sunshine and a breath of fresh air. His face was gentle, his words inspiring, his manner dignified, his tone solid, and his deportment fitting of the executive branch. In a word, Joe Biden was Presidential, a quality that has long been missing in the highest leader of this land.
There is not magic wand that will right all that is distressing in our nation today; there is certainly much work to do as we re-envision the world we want for ourselves and our children and as we recommit ourselves to doing the internal work required to continue becoming people of strength and character, and yet, with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris at the helm, I am hopeful that, in today's words of Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, we can "put our differences aside...lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another...seek harm to none and harmony for all...." May we indeed be "a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free...for there is always light, if only we're brave enough to see it. If only we're brave enough to be it."
This Extrovert's Attempt to Use My Words to Make Sense of My Life