"We've learned that quiet isn't always peace, and the norms and notions of what "just is" isn't always justice." - Amanda Gorman, "The Hill We Climb"
"Relieved - but vigilant." Colorado Governor Jared Polis in an update email, 1/20/21
"The word 'democracy' stems from two roots: "power" and "the people." A true democracy is built around the needs and priorities of its citizens, not those with the greatest wealth....As Americans of Conscience, we take action to protect freedoms under threat and uphold collaborative democracy as a viable form of government." - Jen Hoffman, Americans of Conscience Instagram post, 1/20/21
In my online workout classes, the teachers exhort me to "get uncomfortable," because "that's where the growth happens." If we stay in our comfort zones, we're never stretched, we never break down muscle fibers that build back better. Easy for them to say, as they glisten with sweat-gleam, their perfect ponytails bobbing in time to the music. But as an athlete, I know they're right. Progress is incompatible with the status quo.
So while I'm relieved to my core that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are safely installed in their new positions, thrilled to have a serious and professional government again, I will not mistake the installment of their administration for the finish line. I erred in that direction before, when Obama won once and then twice. I relaxed, took a break from civic and political pursuits, under the mistaken impression that America had turned the page on racism and nativism, that the politics of fear had been tossed for the politics of hope.
We know how that turned out. As the youth poet laureate, Amanda Gorman, said in her astonishing recitation of her poem "The Hill We Climb," an uneasy quiet does not equal peace, a tentative stalemate equates not with the establishment of justice. Like approximately eighty million of my fellow citizens, I have been profoundly uncomfortable over the past four years as the forces that would destroy our country and deny our multicultural democracy gathered, swelled and broke over the Capitol.
So of course we want to rest now, secure in the knowledge that a sane and reasonable adult has power over the nuclear football, that our new president has a 200-page strategy for the pandemic response that we've been missing since March 2020. We prayed along with our new president, and I wiped tears from my eyes as a National Guard trooper in the perimeter bowed his head and made the sign of the cross.
We can breathe easier, sleep better. But we can't rest for long and we can never stop. Over seventy million Americans voted against this administration for a myriad of reasons, the worst of which because they don't want a functioning federal government, don't want policies that work. The performances of A-listers and a spectacular fireworks display will not have changed their minds.
I plan to continue my civic efforts, supporting city and state officials who will move our localities forward, staying in touch with my federal representatives, reaching out to neighbors and continuing to have difficult conversations. Our multi-racial, multi-cultural democracy is a fragile new baby, built on the sloping shoulders of those in power who did not trust us to think for ourselves. We must protect our infant coalition, remain vigilant against those who would threaten it. In the inimitable words of Amanda Gorman, "There is always light, / If only we're brave enough to see it. / If only we're brave enough to be it."