“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” — Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
Churchill was talking about a decisive British victory over the Nazis in Africa, but his words apply to any hard-won fight that lifts the hopes of a people exhausted by strife, scandal and sacrifice. Today, Donald Trump’s reign of error ended and Scranton’s own Joe Biden began the mending of a nation deliberately divided by a demagogue and his cynical accomplices.
Trump has been deposed, but Trumpism won’t be so easily defeated. President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris face an uphill battle akin to restoring the Union after the Civil War. It’s a two-front fight with a pair of viral contagions: COVID-19 and the Trumpism that allowed the coronavirus to run riot, killing more than 400,000 Americans and counting.
Biden spoke to that grievous loss in a memorial speech Tuesday, asking Americans to reflect on this time-lapse tragedy and resolve to root out the disease and the selfish cynicism that allowed to spread and linger. He referenced the toll of COVID and the cost of lies In his masterful inauguration address today, revealing his secret weapon in the war to come: Unity.
“With unity, we can do great things, important things. We can right wrongs, we can put people to work in good jobs, we can teach our children in safe schools. We can overcome the deadly virus, we can rebuild work, we can rebuild the middle class and make work secure, we can secure racial justice and we can make America once again the leading force for good in the world.
“I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy these days. I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real. But I also know they are not new. Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal, that we are all created equal, and the harsh ugly reality that racism, nativism and fear have torn us apart. The battle is perennial and victory is never secure.
“Through civil war, the Great Depression, World War, 9/11, through struggle, sacrifice, and setback, our better angels have always prevailed. In each of our moments enough of us have come together to carry all of us forward and we can do that now. History, faith and reason show the way. The way of unity.”
Unity does seem like a fantasy in this fractious time, but Biden’s earnest, insistent call for Americans to see each other as “neighbors and not enemies” becomes more viral with each appeal.
For the sake of America, let’s pray that the 46th president’s belief in a truly United States is as infectious as COVID and Trumpism, and that all of us become willing to take the medicine.