As the playing field for the 2020 election takes shape and begins to solidify, the Democrats and the Republicans have started staking their claims and waving their banners. Being among the "party of progressives" or the "party of Lincoln" will become markers by which we tailor our conversations, our friend groups, and even romantic partners. While both sides are beginning to appeal to their bases, one candidate has their sights set on something entirely different. Joe Biden has highlighted this coming election as being one "for the soul of our nation," and while there is merit to what he's saying, his view of the situation is myopic.
To gain a complete understanding of a people, even a single person, it is imperative that one explores both all the good and all the bad because that is who we are. Every one of us is a series of pushes and pulls, of highs and lows that have strung together to make us who we are. The differing perspectives in our world must be acknowledged and considered before the result is judged. When Biden says that this is a fight for "our soul," he, of course, means to restore our soul to the Good Ole Days. You know, those times vaguely from the Seventies when things were getting better but like… were they? Were they really? To him, he is running to restore and be the leader of the ideal, the impeccable, the unconquerable United States of America, the land of the free and home of the brave. He's chasing our long-lost dream of American exceptionalism and he wants us to buy into that dream also.
What Joe Biden is selling is romanticized.
What Joe Biden is selling is a lie.
The idea of American exceptionalism has always been a gloss we've pulled over the atrocities that have and continue to occur here to this day and we must acknowledge this. The idea that we can simply turn around and go back to how things were before the 2016 election ignores something very vital about the President; he is simply the manifested mouthpiece. Someone as xenophobic, racist, incompetent, disgraceful, and quite frankly wrong wouldn't be elected unless enough people in the country held these beliefs in high enough regard to support the person peddling them (and if they don't, they at least don't like the idea of diverse people being around them).
What Biden is attempting to get the country to do to the past three years is exactly what his campaign is trying to get the country to do to his slip-ups and that is to forget. While I do believe that mistakes do happen and I do believe that everyone deserves a chance to make amends, Biden's Freudian slips show the flaws in both the image of America he is trying to restore and the image of himself he is trying to sell. Besides the obvious, him saying "poor kids are just as white kids" is a problem because the excused, accidental racist comments of "Good Ole Uncle Joe" has too often become purposeful, intentional racist actions or at least the justification.
Biden wants to be the candidate claiming to be attempting to save our souls when he himself does not understand the complexity of the soul. He ignores the unsavory aspects of us in order to polish and highlight the parts we are proud of. Not only is this a mistake, but it is vitally dangerous. Since our founding, we have been a country and an idea that has lifted millions around the world and lit up their darkest night, but we did not tell them the whole truth and nothing but the truth. We've become so enamored in our own glossed-over image that we fail to see the areas that need help and change now. Going back to the Good Ole Days won't be enough because that's how we got into the problems we have today.
While you could argue that what we need right now is to return to the Good Ole Days of Obama (and Biden!) Administration policy and zeitgeist and yes, you would be right, that would certainly be preferable. But are we looking at the time correctly? Clearly? Completely? Don't get me wrong, I love Obama as much as the next person, but maybe we didn't have to sign an order saying we'd be in Afghanistan until the end of 2017. And maybe we should've pushed for an assault weapon ban. But I digress.
What we need to do is aspire to be better than who we were when we got into these problems and to be bold enough to get ourselves out of them. It's time to understand that if America wants to be the leader of the world's nations, it must be of the world. We don't divinely place above anyone; we aren't infernally condemned below anyone. We have told the world that in America everyone is free and equal. It's time we stopped lying and made that reality if we are brave enough to confront our past as it truly happened, cognizant of the good and bad for us and everyone else. It is only when we've taken the time to understand the truth behind The Constitution, a contract guaranteeing that we will be forever evolving and learning, that we will be able to make any forward movement on our problems.