It started as a fairly normal Saturday morning in southwestern Colorado, excepting the dull headache that persisted following too many hours of viewing election coverage for what seemed an eternity. The headache quickly resolved with a stout cup of coffee born on the island of Sumatra—a steady morning companion. There were chores to be done, which arrived with a sense of urgency to beat the arrival of a winter storm creeping toward the doorstep of the San Juan Mountains. The storm warning suggested more feet than inches of snow accompanied by a fierce wind—the kind that would erase any of the last golden vestiges of autumn in favor of a white blanket of winter.
As I organized the trash and recyclables to arrive at the dump when the gates would swing clear to receive the castaway evidence of my solitary life, my Springer Spaniel, Stella, started her twirling dance by the door. She loves to go to the dump; her enthusiasm, while odd by human standards, provides a welcome spirit to an otherwise pedestrian chore where the only human interaction is with a maskless transfer-station clerk who takes down license plate numbers and assesses fees with alacrity commensurate with the bounty her customers leave behind. The rats that live beneath the industrial-size compactor are the only critters that wage a smile. Yes, rats can smile. (Google it—they smile with both their ears and lips; happy happens.)
Upon returning home and moving more firewood closer to the front door, I decided to flip on the TV and sink, once again, into my oversized leather chair where reading, viewing, and naps are common. The scene that revealed across the glassy platter of Samsung digital clarity was stunning, even jarring. People gathering in the streets of America—that much seemed normal following months of civil unrest. But, this was strange. Screaming, anger, and violence had been replaced by cheering, singing, and dancing. I struggled to remember the last time I had seen joy, but my memory failed to comply. Tears gathered in the lower half of my eyes then, as suddenly as they arrived, they breached the dam of my eyelids and streamed down my face; an aging white man trying to reconcile the moment after living of the edge of dread for four years.
I wept for the prospect of normalcy. I wept for the promise of hope. I wept for the possibility that the America I was raised to love and protect might return. I wept for the immigrant children who may now be reunited with their parents that had been exiled by an evil American regime. I wept for those who lost their lives at the hands of an incompetent leader who cared more about his reelection than saving them from a deadly pandemic. I wept for those who, because of the color of their skin, or unsettled legal status, or gender preference, or simple political persuasion, have lived in a state of fear moving from shadow to shadow lest the light of day place them in peril. But I also wept for those who prefer red to blue—Trump to Biden—for they are victims too. Dying from a poverty of dignity at the end of a gun, or a stomach full of opioids, bereft of hope and swindled by a man who promised them deliverance but never, ever, cared enough to save them. And, I wept for those who sold their souls to grab what benefits they could—political or financial—from a man who was determined to destroy American values and institutions so that he might realize his fantasies of fascism.
The heart of America has many wounds. To be clear, I am far from Pollyannaish. It is highly uncertain if America will recover her promise, her hope, her power. The American Dream may be lost forever. Our greatest days may only be experienced by reading our history, rather than living our future. However, I heard president-elect Biden’s plea, that we “give each other a chance.” After all, chances—first, second, and more—course through the veins of the American spirit. It is within our power to choose, and each and every one of us has the responsibility in every new morning that arrives, to decide whether we want to save our heritage from the travesty of the Age of Deceit—punctuated in finality by the Trump administration—or meander toward mediocrity, or worse. In November 1863, with the Union teetering on collapse, Abraham Lincoln stood in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—the same commonwealth that delivered victory to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris—and argued for a “new birth of freedom.” Today, we must again set aside fear for hope, hate for love, dread for grace. We must give each other a chance again.