American Grief And Denial

One of Biden’s skills, which we expect to see at play in his inaugural address, is his acknowledgement of grief, and his ability to show citizens the path out of it. “People are learning to die with it,” Biden retorted in the Presidential debates/verbal brawls, to Trump’s criminally casual claim that people were learning to live with COVID-19. Yesterday’s memorial to the approximately 400,000 victims of the pandemic — 400 lights in front of the Lincoln Memorial, each representing 1,000 dead Americans — was deeply moving, appropriate, and necessary.

We are a grieving nation. We are grieving the dead. We are grieving the lost moments we could have spent with friends and family. We are grieving the lost opportunities, the lost jobs, the lost hopes for what we might have achieved in the last year.

We are also grieving our lost optimism about America. Each of us has seen something important, perhaps sacred, damaged or befouled in the last few years. Some of us lost our comfortable belief that anti-democratic forces were on the fringes of our society. We lost our faith that we were safe from them. Some saw, for the first time, how abusive and oppressive the police could be. Some saw that the Republican Party in which they believed was dead. Some lost the expectation that, when faced with a monumental crisis, Americans would band together, and take whatever steps we needed to take to keep each other safe. Some lost the faith that, confronted with the truth, falsehood with melt away.

We have much to grieve. One of the inevitable parts of the grieving process is the struggle with denial. I’ve faced a lot of grief in my own life, and I am not ashamed to say that it’s easy to fall under the sway of denial. There are things we want to believe, that the situation is not as bad as it seems, that a miracle cure will come, that life will return to the foundations, contours, and rhythms it once had.

As wonderful as today’s inauguration is, it should not be an occasion to embrace denial. White supremacists and conspiracy theorists are not fading away. There is no hidden cadre of “real Republicans” who can smoothly re-take control of the party tomorrow. Many Americans live in an ignorant, separate reality of permanent outrage and paranoia. Many Americans still shirk their responsibility to their fellow citizens, either not understanding how masks and distancing work, or not caring. And the list goes on.

Raise a glass to an important turning point, but see it as an opportunity to deal with our manifold problems, not their erasure. They will not just fade away, and their resolution will depend on more than just a small bad of elected officials in one corner of the country.

FILED UNDER: General,
Kingdaddy
About Kingdaddy
Kingdaddy is returning to political blogging after a long hiatus. For several years, he wrote about national security affairs at his blog, Arms and Influence, under the same pseudonym. He currently lives in Colorado, where he is still awestruck at all the natural beauty here. He has a Ph.D in political science that is oddly useful in his day job.

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    Indeed.

    11
  2. JohnMcC says:

    Very well said. I just finished the ‘American Abyss’ op ed that Dr Timothy Snyder had in the NYTimes. Hopefully everyone has read it. But towards his conclusion he says this which bears repeating:

    “Trump’s coup attempt of 2020-21, like other failed coup attempts, is a warning for those who care about the rule of law and a lesson for those who do not. His pre-fascism revealed a possibility for American politics. For a coup to work in 2024, the breakers (ed: Cruz, Hawley, other Trump-adjacent pols) will require something that Trump never quite had: an angry minority, organized for nationwide violence, ready to add intimidation to an election. To claim that the other side stole an election is to promise to steal one yourself. It is also to claim that the other side deserves to be punished.

    “…History shows that political violence follows when prominent leaders of major political parties openly embrace paranoia.

    “Our big lie is typically American, wrapped in our odd electoral system, depending upon our particular traditions of racism. Yet our big lie is also structurally fascist, with its extreme mendacity, its conspiratorial thinking, its reversal of perpetrators and victims and its implication that the world is divided into us and them….”

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  3. Andy says:

    I am not seeing a lot of grieving. The thing I see the most these days is self-righteousness and anger.

    Biden’s admirable tone and demeanor should be emulated, but that’s not going to happen. He’s from a different generation and is unable to change the tides.

    7
  4. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    Thank you. Well said.

    1
  5. drj says:

    @Andy:

    “There is truth, and there are lies” – President Biden

    3
  6. inhumans99 says:

    I do not see an inauguration thread but I caught the tail end of the swearing in ceremony and it was still great to watch. I came in when they announced Garth Brooks would be singing Amazing Grace (I thought he did a great job), and I got to hear Amanda Gorman’s poem/speech (wow, she does have a way with words). Nice to see Bush, Clinton, and Obama all together. Also great to see Pence as he soldiered on through some very tough situations and ignored the words of a lot of people who did not want him to do the right thing.

    I may actually catch any delayed airings of the inauguration and record because from what I saw the folks involved in putting everything together did a solid job considering the 01/06th fallout and that we are still in the thick of a pandemic.

    Go U.S.A.!

    2
  7. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Andy:

    He’s from a different generation and is unable to change the tides.

    This is true. He is not going to change anyone else’s attitude. I have longed to change people’s attitude, but I have found that I can’t. The best I can do is stand up and bear witness. Sometimes it makes an impression. People don’t change quickly, but they do change.

    If we want change, we we each have to work on it, and the most important work is changing ourselves. If you want to change the world, change yourself.

    6
  8. DrDaveT says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    This is true. He is not going to change anyone else’s attitude.

    I also agree with this. It’s why I think the political focus should not be on finding unity in policy goals, but rather imposing unity on the facts. Republican officials should be called on to publicly debunk the conspiracy theories and lies that drive the MAGAts. If they won’t do that, they should be publicly shamed for it.

    No more weaseling; no more getting the votes without actually waving that Confederate flag themselves. If you can’t announce to your constituents that you are personally convinced that there was no widespread election fraud — that it was a deliberate lie intended to subvert the will of the voters — then you are still an active enemy of American democracy and values.

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  9. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    I read a historical analogy to our current situation the other day at the Atlantic. It looked at the Dreyfus Affair in France and how French society splintered between those who acknowledged the truth and those who didn’t.

    Depressingly, it took 70 years for the partisan lie to die out, meaning it took multiple generations dying off, WW 1, WW2 and the occupation of France, and the Holocaust before the anti-semitic lie finally left French politics.

    What that means for American politics and the Big Lie of the stolen election…I don’t want to think about on Inauguration Day. Good luck Mr President, you are going to need it. At this point I’m reduced to hoping that Trump does try to form his own party and media empire. Splintering the conspiracy theorists into multiple smaller groups might be the only way to let them fight each other instead of us and let them dwindle into obscurity. But if it remains just Republicans and Democrats (and I think everyone here has a decent education from our hosts on why that is the most likely outcome) we will continue to just oscillate wildly back and forth between 2 radically different views of reality.

    6
  10. CSK says:

    @DrDaveT:
    I don’t think a public repudiation of the election fraud conspiracy would have the slightest effect on the Trumpkins.

    2
  11. inhumans99 says:

    @inhumans99:

    Replying to myself to note that I just noticed the Inauguration thread, I skipped over it earlier when I posted in this thread. Sorry about that.

  12. Andy says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    Your comment is a better effort at the point I was trying to get at. If more Americans modeled Biden’s character and behavior – especially the minority who live and breathe politics on a daily, we’d be in a much better place.

    If we want change, we we each have to work on it, and the most important work is changing ourselves. If you want to change the world, change yourself.

    That is great advice. The unfortunate reality of our species is that we don’t do this in practice – we expect others to change. So I think in two weeks, probably less, this speech (which was good overall) will be forgotten as we get back into political and culture war battles.

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  13. Gustopher says:

    @Andy:

    I am not seeing a lot of grieving. The thing I see the most these days is self-righteousness and anger.

    Speaking only for myself — I’m not grieving because I refuse to believe that we lost something, but I am angry as hell that people (my fellow countrymen!) have tried to attack and destroy America as we know it.

    Maybe I’m just in denial about how much we have already lost. We gave a petulant man-child the strongest bully-pulpit in our country, and he has done terrible things with it, embracing enemies foreign and domestic, but ultimately he has failed, at least for now. The costs are high (in lives, in dollars, in tensions with our neighbors both foreign and domestic), but we will recover.

    The right in our country has embraced Nazis in the past — literal Nazis led by literal Hitler — and we recovered. We can and we will do so again.

    And maybe we will even learn that the Nazis are always with us, and we must always be watchful. They can be discredited, but they always come creeping back, just like the lunatics.

    Is this the first time we’ve had the lunatics and the nazis prominent at the same time? The nazis here slid into the background after the McCarthy era, and the John Birch Society was right after that, right?

    6
  14. Scott says:

    There are things we want to believe, that the situation is not as bad as it seems, that a miracle cure will come, that life will return to the foundations, contours, and rhythms it once had.

    Many Americans live in an ignorant, separate reality of permanent outrage and paranoia.

    The problem we face, we have always faced. It just gets driven underground, festering, and waiting for an opportunity to erupt and threaten us. From the persecution of the Mormons in the 1800s, to the tar and feathering of WWI pacifists, to red baiting, to today, those violent forces are there and ready to go.

    For a little history reading, here is The Paranoid Style in American Politics by Richard Hofstadter published in Harper’s Magazine in 1964 (55 years ago) which starts off:

    It had been around a long time before the Radical Right discovered it—and its targets have ranged from “the international bankers” to Masons, Jesuits, and munitions makers.

    American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority.

    Nothing has changed. It just has to be remembered.

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  15. Kathy says:

    There’s a whole laundry list of things that need to be done or changed, some are self-explanatory, other not:

    Demonetize society
    Demilitarize the police
    End the war on drugs
    Judicial reform
    Senate reform
    Justice system reform
    Tax reform (to increase revenue and tax the wealthy more)
    Stop embracing trickle-down and other voodoo forms of economics (Bush the elder had it right).
    Address and solve wadge stagnation
    Increase the minimum wage, first to a set amount and then index it to inflation*
    Regulate social media
    Invest in infrastructure
    Remove racists and white supremacists from the armed forces, federal law enforcement agencies, and state and local police forces

    Some of these can be achieved with legislation, some are cultural issues which may take decades.

    To begin with, we really need to make racism and other forms of discrimination shameful again.

    8
  16. charon says:

    @JohnMcC:

    Very well said. I just finished the ‘American Abyss’ op ed that Dr Timothy Snyder had in the NYTimes. Hopefully everyone has read it. But towards his conclusion he says this which bears repeating:

    No linky, I had to resort to teh Google to find it:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/09/magazine/trump-coup.html

    1
  17. DrDaveT says:

    @CSK:

    I don’t think a public repudiation of the election fraud conspiracy would have the slightest effect on the Trumpkins.

    I don’t either. That’s not what it’s for.

    2
  18. Teve says:

    Lady Gaga was terrible.

  19. de stijl says:

    I lost a sliver of October and most of November. I slept through most it. I remember being too cold and being too hot and body aches emanating from my big bones. Bad horror movies streamed to my phone in bed. Being incredibly sick and tired of my bedroom walls and everything between them. Tang. Ginger Ale my friend left on my stoop every few days. Waking up and being super thirsty. Short term memory trying to catch up.

    All in all, not a huge loss. I am post-employed and single. My new friend’s mom was super pissed I brought disease into her house but so far she and her daughter have not been infected.

    I walked away lucky. A month barely lived is a totally acceptable alternative to sucking for breathe until you die.

    At one point I was confused it was a Saturday. My brain said it was Wednesday. If you sleep too much your sense of time suffers. I lost the 15 pounds I’d been meaning to shed.

    400,000. That’s a big number. It’s going to get bigger.

    I am sick of childishness. Hiding does not make it go away. Certain periods require you to be aware and there. This is one such time.

    4
  20. CSK says:

    @DrDaveT:
    Yes; I see your point. It would be cleansing.

    1
  21. Teve says:

    There’s nothing going on. OtB is worrisome.

  22. CSK says:

    @Teve:
    How so? Maybe we’re all just resting. Or relieved. “Armed patriots” were supposed to storm D.C. today.

  23. JohnMcC says:

    @charon: Thank you.

    Links are a challenge to this old fellow and the NYTimes seemed pretty easy to find. But I guess it’s a contemporary courtesy that I omitted.

    1
  24. Kathy says:

    @Teve:

    I’m at work, a bit bored with not that much to do, and with little desire or motivation to do some of what I need to do which I can put off for tomorrow. I’m also trying not to post every few seconds, and try to have something to say when I do.

    Here’s one: if trump’s claims were right and CNN, NBC, MSNBC, the NY Times, WaPo, etc. were all publishing and broadcasting literal fake news, that is to say actual lies, which harmed him, wouldn’t he have made like a really big fortune suing them all for libel?

  25. flat earth luddite says:

    @Andy:
    @Jay L Gischer:

    Well said, both of you. Like you, I wish for a return to normal. I don’t expect it, but I hope your optimism-fu is both strong and accurate.

    OTOH, my expansive gut tells me that the small lie/medium lie/big lie espoused by the cowardly and venal GOP congress-critters will continue to reverberate down the corridors of the future. The good news is, I’m unlikely to be here in 15-20 years to see the carry-forward of America’s own 4-year version of the Dreyfus Affair, or of American Fascism™. Unfortunately, my wife and daughter will likely be here to witness it.

    2
  26. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Kathy:
    I endorse your candidacy.

    1
  27. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Thanks, but you’d be better off backing someone with more drive and ambition.