Opinion | Susan Knopf: God bless America
For the Record
Lady Gaga brought the gold microphone to her lips, and I wanted to cry. She made us all proud.
Inauguration Day was a day of pride, relief and joy. Pride, that we recovered from an insurrection attempt just two weeks ago. Relief, there were no more violent attacks on our country since Jan. 6. Joy to hear President Joe Biden speak truthfully from his heart. Joy to hear words that seek to unite our divided country.
In the coming days, I hope beleaguered Republican officials recant their lies regarding our fair election, as insurrectionists are charged and go to jail. I hope the 74 million voters who voted against Biden will come to understand they were misled, in what is now being called “the big lie.”
I hope they will see their inflamer-in-chief only sought to stay in office to save his own skin. His office gave him immunity. Now we will witness the myriad criminal charges he will face for his actions before taking office and while in office. Enough of that sad history.
As the wise-beyond-years poet laureate Amanda Gorman entreated us, “… We lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another. We seek harm to none and harmony for all.”
Gorman further stated, “We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it.”
With that understanding, the newly sworn-in president stepped onto the national stage and said, “Disagreement must not lead to disunion. … I pledge this to you: I will be a president for all Americans. I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.”
Biden exhorted, “Unity! Unity!”
He referenced Abraham Lincoln’s words and repeated, “My whole soul is in this: Bringing America together. Uniting our people. And uniting our nation. I ask every American to join me in this cause. Uniting to fight the common foes we face: anger, resentment, hatred. Extremism, lawlessness, violence. Disease, joblessness, hopelessness. 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 this deadly virus. We can reward work, rebuild the middle class and make health care secure for all. We can deliver racial justice.”
I know this prospect scares many, who believe racial justice already exists. Our country is built on individualism. If you work hard enough, you can succeed. That’s why Biden quoted his mother, just for a moment: “Stand in the other person’s shoes.”
Our country is also built on slavery. Our Capitol was built with slave labor.
My first real comprehension of racial inequity came in college. A classmate told me about her childhood in the inner city of Baltimore. Her experiences were vastly different than mine. I had grown up with security and opportunity. She had grown up relying on her own wits and the strength of her character. I realized how much advantage I enjoyed and how much steeper her climb had been.
Gorman’s inauguration poem is called “The Hill We Climb.” Biden beseeched us to make that climb together.
Ford Foundation President Darren Walker wrote the assault on our Capitol and the coup attempt are “white backlash that has plagued American politics from its beginnings and throughout these last four years. … Inequality is the greatest threat to justice — and, the corollary, white supremacy is the greatest threat to democracy … (and) democracy is the greatest threat to white supremacy.”
If we are to solve our nation’s challenges in a way that benefits all people, we will need to seek “justice for all.”
When Jennifer Lopez sang at the inauguration, she put particular emphasis on, “This land is your land, this land is my land.” For the record, this land is our land. Let’s join with this new president and fight for the advancement of all. And as Biden said in his speech, “May God bless America.”
Susan Knopf’s column “For The Record” publishes Fridays in the Summit Daily News. Knopf lives in Silverthorne. She is a certified ski instructor and an award-winning journalist. Contact her at email@example.com.
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