I will be the first one to tell you that Joe Biden, Jr. was not my first choice for president. In fact, he was probably my last choice. But let me get one thing straight: it was never because I didn’t think him either competent or ready for the job. He spent decades in the Senate and eight years as Vice-President, so he knows more than most what’s expected of him and he’s ready to hit the ground running. So when James Clyburn of South Carolina endorsed him, setting him on a winning streak that proved to be unstoppable, I can’t say I was disappointed. And when he picked Kamala Harris as his running mate–who was my first choice–that sealed the deal for me. So when I got my mail-in ballot from the Great State of New Jersey, (Jersey Girls don’t do lines because they don’t have to), I confidently dropped it in the ballot box with no reservations. So why not? Why Joe, you may ask? Well, I’ll tell you.
Four years ago I laid out my reasons for electing Hillary Clinton. I don’t think I have to mention how that went. There were a lot of reasons why Clinton lost, a couple of progressive third-party candidates, ignoring Midwestern and battleground states, and the plain fact that people were so over the Clintons. Then there was the reality that a lot of people simply didn’t vote, turned off by the nasty state of politics and an apathy for it altogether. People were saying both candidates were awful and how could my one vote make a difference? And here’s the best reason: whatever they do in Washington D.C. can hardly affect me. Thank about that for a few seconds: whatever they do in Washington D.C. can hardly affect me.
Seriously? Ever hear of a little ol’ thing called the COVID-19 pandemic? So how many people are you having over for Thanksgiving? When’s the last time you went to a concert? See your grandma lately? How about that last frat party? Let’s all try that new restaurant! Want to go out for a drink? Don’t worry, it’ll all go away in the spring. No–not next spring. Last spring. Except it didn’t. And there’s no one else to blame expect for Donald Trump. But this isn’t a column against him. I’m from Jersey, and we know who Trump is. And I’m not going to waste keystrokes on this cult of personality. He isn’t worth aggravating my carpel tunnel. So I’ll move on.
I voted for Joe Biden because I want competence in the government again. I want an adult who believe in science and progressive thinking and will honor differences of opinion, and is willing to compromise for a consensus. I want to believe in what my elected officials say, and when they do speak, they’ll speak truthfully and without recrimination, and they’ll respect the expertise of career public service professionals. I want my president to remember he’s a caretaker of not only the public trust, but to remember he’s the president of all Americans, blue state and red, and that he’ll rely on science and not on whatever’s rolling out of the rumor mill. I want Joe Biden as president because maybe we won’t be the laughingstock of the world anymore, and he’ll respect the expertise of our career diplomats and military. He’ll remember the White House is hotel and not his private country club, and that when family come over it’s for lunch in the private residence, and not for work in an office off the Oval. I want Joe Biden as president because I trust him to hire the best people for the job, not off a TV show he watched that morning, and when he fires someone I don’t learn about it in a tweet.
Oh man…I could go on and on, but like I said, the carpel…. I guess most of all why I want Joe Biden for president is I’m exhausted, and through boredom borne of this pandemic, what I’m craving now is normalcy. Donald–you’re just not funny anymore. You’ve worn me out–you’ve worn us all out. We want a leader, not an entertainer, because most definitely, we are not amused.
Am I sounding like an alarmist? Maybe. But as I said many times before, if you don’t vote, you have no right to bitch. Here in New Jersey voting is already underway, and I dropped by ballot in the voting box supplied by my county, at the county library, last Sunday. All voting in NJ is by mail, though you can still vote in person if you want at the polls. Since all registered voters got ballots in the mail, voting in person is provisional, as it’ll be check against the paper ballots. Am I worried? No. This is not new technology. Voting by mail has been done for absentee voting and by people in the military for decades. See, it’s not voter fraud that bother me. It’s what can happen if people don’t vote at all. Don’t say you’re not part of the system. If you’re living in the U.S., if you’re paying taxes, your are. Make your voice heard. VOTE!
I love it when the back-to-school planning committees are held on Zoom. If it’s so safe, then why not meet in the usual meeting rooms with ass-to-ass seating, bad ventilation, and everybody spitting out their usual contention? Yes, children have a lower frequency of falling ill from the virus, but as usual, the some people seem to think that schools (and Higher Ed), run on autopilot. Education is not only about learning–it’s about teaching too. And believe it or not, teachers are real people who can catch viruses. And file lawsuits, too. I’m happy I work for an institution that believes in science, has pushed the Fall semester to remote, and values the health of all its employees and students. That’s pure Jersey.
As I look at the state of the world, as we huddle in our houses and take to the streets, you wonder whether all this upheaval will just make the world give up and explode. How much stress can it take? How much turmoil can it endure? Apparently a lot, because amid all this trouble and strife, a good part of the Earth is thriving. Pollution levels in the air have dropped, and the sky has never been bluer as flights have dropped. Animals are coming out of the woods and into formally populated areas, as people stay inside and stay out of their way. Water is running clear, such as in Venice, Italy where they now can see fish in their canals. For the present, our quarantine has made it a bit easier for nature. For humans–not so much.
Animals kill for food. People kill out of rage or hate or jealousy or indifference. Our capacity for cruelty seems to know no limits. But people can and will only take so much. There are some who seem to forget this country was seeded by revolution. Change is in our DNA. We are a country of the people, by the people, for the people, and these people want change, and are willing to wade into a pandemic to achieve it, to march toward a more perfect Union.
Change is one scary motherfucker. But it is inevitable.
Here in the Northeast and little over an hour away from New York City, it’s a bright clear, late-summer day, much like the kind of day it was eighteen years ago. The memorials came and went this morning, and increasingly, as I meet with my students, there are less who actually remember, even more who not more than infants, if they were even born yet. But I remember. I remember the sign flashed on Route One and the Turnpike that said All roads to New York City are closed. I remember frantically trying to get in touch with my sister who lived there in those pre-cell phone days, the message on my landline …all circuits to New York City are busy. Try again later. I remember the jets flying overhead from the Air Force base three miles from my home, their deafening sound filling the air for hours. I remember seeing the buildings fall. I remember the shock and then the silence. And then just numb.
But I also remember the resilience. The camaraderie. The sense of pride. The flags everywhere because there was no Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives. There was just Americans. And from all that wreckage, we as one people, were never prouder to be one. It didn’t last, of course. The finger-pointing and the ugly reactions to anyone who looked too different came all to quickly. But for a while there, a terrible tragedy brought us all together. Then, as now, I sincerely hope we wouldn’t need another to accomplish the same thing.