Facing Forward

By Frank Blechman

The inauguration of the Biden-Harris administration last week stood out from previous ones in many ways. The pandemic, the threat of violence, and the bitterly ungracious ex-president ensured that whatever happened, like most of 2020, the ceremonies would be recorded in history with an asterisk.

Highlighting the point, Joe Biden’s inaugural address named the crises already raging as he took office: the still-peaking pandemic (of course), the struggling economy, the changing climate, and growing demands for racial justice.

Yet perhaps the most interesting thing in his address was a side note. Unlike his predecessor, who liked to insist that “nobody had ever faced challenges as great as he had,” and nobody had confronted them with more boldness than he,” Biden said, “These are not new.”

“These are not new.” . . . Biden acknowledged that we face these problems today not because of cruel fate, but because of what we had neglected or declined to do in the past. He implied that these were not mysteries to be untangled, or puzzles to be solved. He challenged us to admit to ourselves that we know what needs to be done, if we have the courage to face it and the resolve to do it.

Biden acknowledged that we face these problems today not because of cruel fate, but because of what we had neglected or declined to do in the past. He implied that these were not mysteries to be untangled, or puzzles to be solved. He challenged us to admit to ourselves that we know what needs to be done, if we have the courage to face it and the resolve to do it.

Are most of us really ready to face the roots of racial injustice? Climate degradation? Dysfunctional health care? A stratified economic class system? Are we willing to recognize our own role in these failures, and accept the burdens involved in addressing them? Do we think we can continue to be bystanders as history marches by?

As hopeful as I am about the new leadership, I am less optimistic about the followership. Are we the privileged willing to give up some (any) of our advantages? Are we fortunate enough to pay taxes willing to pay more? I am sure that vague calls to action won’t do the job. Will our leaders have the strength to spell out what really needs to be done? Will I be thrilled if they do?

At this point, I can only hope that I have the courage of my convictions. The next few years will test me more than the last four. I hope I am up to it.

 

 



Categories: elections, Issues, Local, National, pandemic, politics, State

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