Healing and Unity of a Troubled Nation and a World at Risk
Ambassador Curtis A. Ward
(28 March 2021) – Sixty-eight days after the inauguration of president Joseph Biden as the 46th President of the United States of America, and of vice president Kamala Harris, history-making first woman and first person of Black and Asian heritage to serve in that office, I decided to take a look at how well president Biden and his administration had done, so far, in fulfilling the pledges he made to heal and unify America and reassert American leadership in the world. This is not intended as a report card; it’s too early for that. New presidents are often judged on what they have done in the first 100 days of assuming office, and they usually set very high expectations for themselves.
Thus, I offer no grade at this time, but if I had to, I would say president Biden is doing the right things to fulfill many of his promises, but America is not yet ready for healing and unity. There is a far way to go, and no one should be under any illusion that success is in the near future, but failure is not an option. The ‘uncivil war’ president Biden referred to is unabated and will be intractable.
Ending the uncivil war
The expectations were especially high for the nation and the world after four years of former president Donald Trump’s administration’s wrecking ball approach to domestic and global issues. The newly inaugurated president Biden set the tone and raised expectations of healing and unity in his maiden speech as president. The Washington Post, January 21, 2021 edition, headlined president Biden’s inauguration speech with these words: Biden: ‘Unity is the path’, and one of its sub-headlines, Term begins with inaugural plea for a divided nation to end its ‘uncivil war’. This clearly reflected the hopes and expectations of the new administration and the majority of American voters.
This ‘uncivil war’ president Biden referred to was a reflection of the sharp divisions in the US which grew wider and deeper by former president Trump’s divisive, racist, and bigoted words and deeds which culminated, but not ended, by the insurrection which threatened American democracy on January 6, 2021. This ‘uncivil war’ is not a mere war of ideas, but a war of competing cultural mores grounded in history, bigotry, racism, and xenophobia; fueled by social and economic inequities; and perpetuated by a group of Republican politicians who seem to believe that inclusion and equity are anathema to their white supremacist beliefs. This ‘uncivil war’ is evidenced and realized by the growth of violent white extremism and domestic terrorism.
Rebounding from the ravages of the Trump administration
While president Biden’s inauguration address focused on the many issues ailing America, including the COVID-19 virus pandemic, he also highlighted the need for healing of the planet and of the world. He told the American people that the US still had a far way to go, but promised that his administration would “press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibilities.” He said there was “much to repair; much to restore. much to heal; much to build; and much to gain.” Indeed, political divisions in America grew wider and deeper, as federal, state, and local Republican legislators, and core Republican supporters and right wing media embraced Trump’s domestic policies.
Trump’s presidency was characterized by policies which encouraged the growth of white supremacy; created an atmosphere which manifested systemic racism, economic inequities, and unleashed a criminal justice system which discriminates against people of color; effected changes to the Affordable Care Act, resulting in denial of affordable health care to millions of Americans, thus widening health disparities and reducing access to affordable health care for millions of Americans. Trump’s xenophobic policies targeting non-white immigrants manifested in the Atlanta, Georgia murders of six Asians out of eight people killed on March 17th. Referencing the “cry for racial justice, some 400 years in the making”, president Biden promised that “The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer.”
These are among the many broken elements of American society inherited by president Biden, and for which his call for healing and unity is a major challenge of historical proportions. He pointed to the “rise in political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism” that the America people must confront and defeat; and he said that in order “to overcome these challenges – to restore the soul and to secure the future of America – requires more than words.” He said unity is required to meet these challenges, but pointed out it was one of the most elusive thing in a democracy. After the first 68 days of his presidency, unity between the two major political forces (Democrats and Republicans) remains more elusive today than it has been for several decades prior to Trump’s presidency; and there is no sign of any change to come.
Expectations raised for Biden’s leadership on today’s and tomorrow’s global challenges
President Biden characterized a cry for survival coming from the planet itself as couldn’t be “any more desperate or any more clear.” Indeed, the challenges posed by climate change will be devastating and long-lasting, and the immediate challenges of the global COVID virus pandemic required the return of American global leadership from the abyss to which it descended during Trump’s presidency.
As president Biden said, “the world is watching,” and that, “we can make America, once again, the leading force for good in the world.” His message to the global community was solace to many of us who have searched desperately for an iota of positive moral leadership in response to global challenges lacking by former president Donald Trump,
President Biden promised to repair alliances and to engage with the world again to meet today’s and tomorrow’s problems. He said America “will lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example” and, to that end, America “will be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress, and security.” There is strength and clarity in Biden’s vision for the role America must play in global affairs. This is a dramatic departure from his predecessor, his message resonated with global leaders, and is exactly what the world was waiting for and wanted to hear from the new president. There are many dangerous geopolitical and security challenges facing America and the international community which need American leadership to resolve.
The healing process begins
There is no easy solution to the many challenges facing the Biden administration – challenges of the global pandemic and containing the virus spread in America which were deliberately left undone; a wrecked domestic economy resulting from Trump’s inaction on the pandemic; a botched immigration system inherited from the Trump administration which left tens of thousands of desperate immigrants languishing within the Mexican border; an America divided by Trump’s policies not seen since the American Civil War; a criminal justice system ravaged by Trump and his Justice Department; racial inequities exacerbated by Trump’s policies; an unprecedented rise in white supremacy and violent white extremism, aided and abetted by the policies, words and actions of the former president and his political and right-wing media enablers. This cohort opposes, and will continue to oppose everything president Biden does or seeks to do to meet the challenges, heal the wounds, and bring unity to America.
The healing process has begun. Thus, in a future article I will analyze the prospects for success of president Biden’s early actions and projected future actions; how they will change the dynamics of the American domestic and global landscapes; the impacts of some of the actions already taken by the Biden-Harris administration to unify and heal America; and how the world’s democracies will rise to meet the challenges in partnership with the actions and goals set by president Biden.
© 2021 Curtis A. Ward/The Ward Post
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