Scene 1: 1966.
As a child, I learned about the Civil War. The tragedy — according to my third grade teacher — was that the war pitted brother against brother, and mothers and fathers against their sons. What I also learned was that women who weren’t mothers were invisible.
Hallelujah! Abraham Lincoln unified the country and got us back on the path of democracy.
Our class did a play for the whole school about Lincoln and the Civil War. We all had to memorize the Gettysburg Address. We all had to recite it. One of us would be picked to play Lincoln in front of the whole school. Surprise! The child who got the role was tall, skinny, and dark-haired and a boy.
I was sorely disappointed, because I was the very best reciter; I had it all in my head and had great inflection. I looked up words I didn’t know and understood what I was saying. (That boy didn’t even know what a score was). When I got home, my brothers said, “What do you expect? You can’t be President. You’re a girl. Not only that, we can’t be President because we are Jews.”
Since the President (JFK) had just had his head blown off in Dallas, I actually didn’t want to be President. But, I wanted my perfect memorization acknowledged. I even was taller and skinnier than that boy.
Scene 2: 2020
In 2020 (actually since Charlottesville in 2017), the civil unrest is pitting sibling against sibling, parent against child and vice versa. It is alienating life-long friends. Living through this, I feel the tragedy that my teacher was trying to share with us. (Even if I held a lifelong grudge against her for my not getting the role of Lincoln).
I don’t feel “Hallelujah! Joe Biden,” but I loved his Gettysburg address (video link):
… Folks, duty and history call presidents to provide for the common good, and I will. It won’t be easy. Won’t be easy. Our divisions today are long standing, economic and racial inequities have shaped us for generations, but I give you my word. I give you my word. If I’m elected president, I will marshal the ingenuity and goodwill of this nation to turn division into unity and bring us together because I think people are looking for that. We can disagree about how as we move forward, we must take the first steps. It starts with how we treat one another. How we talk to one another. How we respect one another…
… Let’s conduct ourselves as Americans who love each other, who love our country, who will not destroy, but will build. We owe it to the dead who were buried here at Gettysburg. We owe that to the living, and to future generations yet to be born…
… You and I are part of a covenant, a common story of divisions overcome and hope renewed. If we do our part, if we stand together, if we keep faith with the past and with each other, then the divisions of our time will give way to the dreams of a brighter, better future. This is our work. This is our pledge. This is our mission. We can end this era of division. We can end the hate and the fear. We can be what we are at our best, the United States of America. God bless you all. And may God protect our troops. Thank you. We can do this.
This is going to be a difficult winter for many of us, no matter what happens on November 3. Do what you can to move America in the direction of your dreams.
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