You can’t listen to the few words Joe Biden spoke when he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, with distinction, without realizing what deeply decent people we have had running this country.
At a moment when Moonlight, Fences, and Hidden Figures are in theatres.
At a moment when rights for trans people were really having an effect.
At a moment when the Pipeline protests caught the national attention and once again, Native Americans showed us how to respect our land and ourselves.
At a moment when everything seemed to be going something like right finally, when our national conversation about the prison pipeline and the deep patriotism of the Muslim parents of a fallen war hero reminded us of the worst and the best we can be as a nation — at that very moment, it all fell apart.
It hasn’t yet. The fumes of Obama’s legacy are what we’re running on now. It was only 8 years ago when the high hopes and inspired souls overjoyed so many of us; that we looked at each other with wide-eyed amazement as if to say can you believe we did this? And the rest of the world looked at the US with surprise and respect: we could be still be America. We were.
I don’t know what we’re going to become. That other America, the wretched one, the gilded mean one of bottom lines and wealthy excess, of poorer people making the groceries stretch a little longer, of a nervous middle class, what of it there still is, of people dying from medical conditions they might have survived in a more generous time.
This is going to be hard. We are going to suffer, as will the land, and the critters, and people we know and love and strangers we don’t know but might love if we knew them.
But this eight years that just passed is something for us to hang our hopes on. That other America that we’ve now all seen and experienced at least a little, a period where more people gained rights, not fewer. Where common sense actually counted. Where Black Lives Matter showed us all what the legacy of racism really means. Where some actions, and some words, convinced us all we were in this together.
So I’m going to keep saying it, as Obama did when he gave his farewell address: yes, we can.
And apparently we’re going to damn have to.