The inauguration was a new dawn. But I caught myself clutching the covers. Watching it, the unseemly thought entered my mind: am I going to miss having Donald Trump in office? Now let me explain that I am vehemently against Trump. I think he’s a horrible individual who led our country to a God-awful place. But that’s just the thing: the drama was addicting. I think I’m addicted to watching pundits decry him on Morning Joe every morning, addicted to always having something new to be aghast about. Trump turned the presidency into a spectator event. There was no bottom to his behavior, and that made him utterly captivating to watch. What are Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes going to talk about now? And will I be as interested as I used to be? We now face a vacuum. To move on, we need to put the forty-fifth president behind us. But I wonder if we’re too hooked on his drama to do this.
Meanwhile, Joseph Biden prescribes a period of healing. People might wonder if that’s possible after all we’ve been through, but my question is, what happens if it is? If the President ushers in an era of peace and togetherness, do we lose our voices? Opposing Trump gave us moxie. It gave us things to speak out about. How do we transfer our fighting spirit to the age of Biden? God knows we have work to do. But we now have a president who…wants to do it. Where crisis-level exclamations of anger and anguish once flourished, subdued appeals will now do. It’s a new posture. Since nobody is contemptible anymore, we have to learn how to fight for things rather than against them. With Biden, we may sleep better at night, but can we be as fierce or as engaged? There may be many things I want to lose from the Trump era, but these are a few of the things I hope to keep.
I wonder if we could ever file into the streets by the hundreds of thousands to protest income inequality the same way we did President Trump the day after his inauguration. I wonder if fighting climate change can still rev us up when the president and his EPA appointee indeed believe in it and want to stop it too. The ferocious resistance that emerged to oppose an overtly despicable leader needs to be applied to some of our society’s most critical issues. There are places for our outrage to go. But in the absence of such an observable threat to the republic, will it go there?
As we celebrate the end of the Trump era, we should think about what American projects we place our energy in next. Maybe we’ll surprise ourselves. Maybe we’ll find that we can be fighters in times of harmony just as much as we are in times of turmoil, albeit in a new way.