The life does not always give us what we want, but it has a way to give us what we need.
This year, Americans didn’t get what any of us would have wanted, but in many ways we got what we needed.
We saw how dangerously incompetent our government is when it is led by people who see no need for the power of government to serve their people.
We have seen how fragile our democracy can be and how each generation must do what we can to protect it.
We have to see how much we miss each other when we are isolated for too long, that we are hard-wired for the community, and that we suffer when we are denied the opportunities for normal everyday interaction.
We need to see what happens when a health care system is overburdened and is not supported by the federal government in emergencies.
We have seen the devastation of hunger, fear and insecure tenancies that afflicts the tens of millions of people overwhelmed by economic hardship.
We have seen how little our government seems to care.
America has had to look in the mirror this year, and we have seen some ugly things that we did not want to see. We saw police brutality and systemic racism. We saw the human realities of income inequality, as tens of millions of people are now experiencing its consequences in a state of great despair. We saw the rise of neo-Nazi groups and the social contagion of conspiracy theories. We have seen how close we have come, if we are not already there, to an essentially cold civil war.
None of these things are beautiful and none of them feel good. But these are not feel-good times. They are serious and sobering times that, in the words of Thomas Paine, “put people’s souls to the test”. Together we will decide whether to triumph or succumb to the dangers we now face. We will withdraw or evolve; these are our only two options.
Yes, we can learn from what we have gone through and grow with the challenges ahead. But one thing is certain: America will not remain the same.
We will not go back to the pre-Trump era, however much some may cling to the nostalgic view we have. The conditions described above are too destabilizing to continue pretending that we are doing well. We were not okay, and we are not okay. Many of the problems we face have simply been lying in wait, their seeds underground and their harbingers unnoticed. We will no longer be spared the consequences of our refusal to address them.
No, the political earthquake is upon us, and these are undeniably revolutionary times. We will now learn some lessons, and the only choice that lies ahead is whether we learn them through wisdom or through suffering. The times ahead will bring either a revolution of love and justice or a revolution of violence and pain. The question is no longer whether the revolution will be televised, but only whether it will take place in your neighbourhood.
In the words of John F. Kennedy: “Those who make a peaceful revolution impossible make a violent revolution inevitable. The greatest danger that lies ahead is not that a revolution could take place, but that a revolution of love could not take place. For if we do not bring about love in a way that is invisible in the present time, we will be shown invisible horrors in the present time.
President-elect Joe Biden has the opportunity to be the FDR of our time and to respond powerfully to the mass suffering in his midst, and it would be to the benefit of us all if he did so. But he must agree with the opposition. Where Obama tried to cooperate with the other side, the FDR declared, “I welcome their hatred. Of course, a deep-rooted corporatist status quo opposes the actual sharing of power with the people of the United States, but the people are no longer willing to sit around waiting for crumbs from Mount Olympus of oligarchic power. Biden can and should use the power of the presidency to give the life of the average American a massive infusion of economic hope and opportunity. If he does not do this, we should expect some massive signals of popular discontent in 2022.
Gradual change is not a revolution of love, and we should not be afraid of fundamental change; if anything, we should be afraid of lack of it. Radical, you say? I will tell you what is radical. Hunger is radical. Poverty is radical. Homelessness is radical. Radically unjust and unjust and unacceptable in the richest nation in the world. If anything, the radicality of love is exactly what is demanded.
Medicare for All, the cancellation of student loan debt and free tuition fees at state colleges and universities are seen as “far left” only by those who oppose the power-sharing they represent. Yes, these forces have had PR success in convincing people that such policies are “socialist” and dangerous. But in any other advanced democracy – which, by the way, is much better off than ours at the moment – they are seen as the middle of the road. And they should be. It is no coincidence – just a political inconvenience for some – that a majority of Americans now support this policy. They are natural rules of a government that is “by the people, by the people, and for the people.
President-elect Biden will decide how revolutionary he is willing to be in the name of the principles of equality, opportunity and justice that are our American ideals. Those ideals now lie in ruins and they must be repaired. Although no one considers Biden a revolutionary personality, these are revolutionary times. And perhaps that makes him a perfect captain for the era we live in: A steady, firm, calm hand on a very large ship that is heading for a hurricane and now just has to turn around, just has to turn around. The turbulence that awaits us if we don’t turn around could cause great damage to the ship and endanger its inhabitants.
If the year 2020 has shown us anything, it is this.
Marianne Williamson is a Washington-based Newsday columnist, best-selling author, political activist and spiritual leader. She is the founder of Project Angel Food and co-founder of the Peace Alliance and was the first candidate in the 2020 presidential primary to make reparations a pillar of her campaign. She is the author of 13 books, including “Healing the Soul of America” and “A Politics of Love”.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.