“All that you touch You Change. All that you Change Changes you. The only lasting truth Is Change.” - Octavia Butler
Today is the Inauguration of Joe Biden, our 46th President. Today, the administration of Donald Trump ends. And amidst all the doubts about the possibility of renewed attacks, about what will happen next, about Biden’s commitment to truly addressing the pressing issues of our time, and about the compromised and provisional nature of democracy in this country since its very beginning, this day — like the New Year, like a birthday — represents change as our constant. Change in time, change in our lives, change in leadership. We may want change or we may fight against it, and still it always comes.
Biden’s Inauguration represents a change that could turn toward hope, the hope that we have held at bay for this moment the very worst of our national demons. It represents a chance to address COVID, climate change, income inequality, health disparities, mass incarceration. It does not mean that we will address those issues, or even that we are likely to do so. It simply gives us a chance, rather than playing defense against the horrors of the Trump Administration, to go on offense with our demands of Biden.
With Trump’s election, some of us — mostly us white people — woke up to the racism and sexism that have always been and remain alive in the heart of our nation. Black people and many people of color have always known and felt those dangers. As some of us white people awoke, we invested more of our time and energy in political defense against Trump. Now is not the time to step back. Now is the time for us to step up and invest that same energy and more in pushing Biden and the Democrats — whether they are progressive or moderate — to implement legislation that truly addresses the issues of our time.
If we speak out, use our leverage, join together as a coalition of advocates across difference — race, gender, language, ability — we have the opportunity to support a new Reconstruction, a renewed Progressive Era, a growing movement for Civil Rights in our time. We have the opportunity to produce real change and to protect our gains against inevitable backlash.
This must start and remain, at its core, about building a truer democracy — securing voting rights for the widest number of people, including those who are and have been incarcerated, making it easier for all people to vote, and shifting our system to be more representative of all people. Some changes, such as abolishing the Electoral College, may not yet be feasible. Others, like advancing statehood for DC and Puerto Rico if they want it, may be. And still others are feasible if we just have the will: automatic voter registration, increasing voting hours, and diminishing the influence of money in politics.
If we have the will, if we build our relationships and connections, and if we stay the course, we can start by empowering democracy itself, then go on to address all the other issues that need our attention. As the great author Octavia Butler wrote, “The only lasting truth is change.” Let this day represent how we have been changed and how we seek to shape change as a collective people.
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