We have entered a new era in America—not in American politics but in America. That does not mean that we can pick up our ball and go home, or go out to town for brunch (thank you COVID). It just means that twenty days into 2021, it finally feels like the demonic year of 2020 is over. We still have numerous, unthinkable problems to solve, and we hope and know that our generation will be on the cutting edge of shaping policy and government in just a few short years. But what happened on Wednesday—fireworks, Bernie’s mittens, and all—felt like a major injection of cold air right into our collective bloodstream.
President Biden and Vice President Harris ran their campaign on core American ideals and philosophies. Unity, love, humility, “soul of the nation,” “no malarkey.” Their humility enabled them to build a broad, 80-million strong coalition of voters, especially when contrasted with the ego-driven politics of former President Donald Trump. Refreshingly, Biden’s inaugural address was not heavy on ideology or doom-and-gloom, it was rooted in these core American values—establishing a common interpretation with all Americans—and it felt as if Biden was “leveling” with the American people, a phrase he frequents, as he laid out the “converging crises” of our time, namely immigration, climate, the coronavirus pandemic, and the ongoing struggle for justice and equality.
Throughout the speech, he did not point fingers, call names, or scapegoat supposed perpetrators for these crises. Unity is not waging a war on a person, country, or ideology, unity is what the individual does and how the individual leads, unwavering in their help and support for everyone around them.
We are all Americans, citizens of a country under a common flag. For so many years America seemed like an abstract concept, an entity that went on and on and on on autopilot, as we labored to “achieve” and check off boxes. However, America is the cornerstone of every single thing that we do. The people around us in our very community are our countrymen and we are part of a collective project with them. Our classmates and neighbors are not our competitors or some individual laborers who achieve solely for themselves. No, our success depends on the success, wellbeing, faith, and happiness of our neighbors and classmates. Yes, we may have many issues with certain policies and we may not enjoy the same things, watch the same sports, or share the same lifestyle with many people within the Ridgewood community. That is the beauty of an individualistic ideal. But when it comes to the very fabric of our nation, we are all part of one collective experiment in democracy—our academic, social, and extracurricular achievements are predicated upon the foundation of this nation—the faith of millions of Americans on a common destiny and on the wellbeing of every single one of our classmates and neighbors.
Two weeks after polarization seemed to reach a climax with the insurrectionist raid on the Capitol, Biden called for this message of collective unity and ending the “uncivil war” we have lived through. The right and left bitterly spar in government and their respective factions duke it out across the country. It is our duty to return to our communities, to return to our core values. To call out lies and conspiracy theories for what they are, and to no longer tolerate animosity and tribalism. To truly feel America and its potential once again. That does not mean stagnancy and never-ending gridlock. We need to pass policy and foster lively, personal debate to end the gridlock, but first we must engage our countrymen in good faith and end bad-faith, circular arguments only aimed to provoke rather than improve the country.
Since this time four years ago, we’ve been awakened from the deep sleep we were in during the Obama years. On foreign trips in our childhoods we would display our American passports with pride, feeling superior as a function of our national identity. During the 45th presidency, that illusion was shredded. We are thankful for that in many ways. It is not enough to flaunt and act and think as if our nation is an impermeable force that is so strong because of our Advanced and Amazing military and intelligence capabilities and because of our cadre of geniuses who tell us “everything will be fine the smart white men in suits who went to fancy schools and made complicated decisions in big smart banks who used complicated analytical and statistical processes and (did we mention) are very smart are in control.” We are strong because of the bonds within our communities and we are strong because our government has the power to actually do things to help our people, not because of gridlock and 4-D chess between do-nothing dark money politicians, corrupt lobbyists, and Very Smart People in Washington.
After his sermon-esque inaugural address and some fanfare, President Biden immediately got to work, marking a juxtaposition between his very non-ideological rhetoric and his actual drive to enact meaningful policy. On the evening of Inauguration Day, Biden signed a flurry of 17 executive orders spanning immigration, climate, pandemic response, housing, and equality, among other topics, many of which work towards reversing some of President Trump’s most damaging executive orders. In this regard, Biden has immediately put the needs of those most in need—the working class, immigrants, students, and so on—at the forefront, willing to use executive authority to begin to heal the nation and address the crises at hand.
While executive orders and policy reversals from administration to administration are impermanent and unsustainable, they are absolutely necessary during this time to get the new administration running with momentum, drive, and vision, and to begin to deliver aid to the people of the United States. With Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff now sworn into the Senate, the Democrats have incredibly valuable political capital, and with that majority across the legislative and executive branches, there is great opportunity for real policy before the 2022 midterms.
Biden and Harris have already shown that they’re here to work for the American people. They’re here to help communities in need. They’re here to serve, and serve with integrity—and we’ll hold them to that standard.
We’ll see you in Washington.
Aaron Friedman & Logan Richman
News Editor & Editor-in-Chief
Graphic: Aaron Friedman