Arlene Violet: Biden sets the right tone

By Arlene Violet
Posted 3/19/21

As I listened to the President’s address on March 11, I was at first struck by the very few “I”s in the speech. Unlike his predecessor whose speeches were never-ending …

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Arlene Violet: Biden sets the right tone


As I listened to the President’s address on March 11, I was at first struck by the very few “I”s in the speech. Unlike his predecessor whose speeches were never-ending self-congratulatory iterations, President Joseph Biden sounded humble. His focus was on “We the People” rather than “moi”.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was the first person whose essay I read (TIME, 2/1/21, p.19) to express the thought that the two most dangerous words in the human vocabulary are US and THEM. She noted that while the impulse to choose sides is inherent in our species leading us to join affinity groups, it is a mistake to think that we are better or smarter than the other. Many countries have had episodes of this vanity whether based on Hitler’s race-based conception, Stalin’s ideological one, and present-day conflicts in Africa and the Middle East. At least in the United States we aspire to the motto, “E Pluribus Unum”; Out of many, one.
I worry about how adrift this country has become. Political rallies have become exhibitions of hate. “Lock them up” has been the cry of crowds who disagree with somebody. Shouting matches have replaced dialogue. Far too many polls have documented that Americans view those in another political party as evil. Can our disagreements lead to a unified outcome?

The President’s address summoned us to unify as an army against an external enemy, i.e. the pandemic. He proffered a path for all of us to protect one another by getting vaccinated and maintaining proper protocols as this country emerges from the last hellish year. He was right to divert attention from our closely-held beliefs in order to see a common ground. It should go without saying that nobody has a monopoly on the truth. Time is well spent seeking unity on principles as opposed to warring over a different point of view.

To be sure nobody has a monopoly on the truth. The very concept that his nation is an “us” not and “I” should be the bedrock for a little humility. Surely, democracy can perdure when we disagree with one another as long as we listen to others and cease demonizing those with another point of view. As old-timers like me were often reminded by our parents, you have one mouth to talk, but two ears to listen twice as much as you want to pontificate!

So, Mr. Biden’s speech can be a rallying cry to stop citizens from regarding either a republican or democrat as the Taliban. This country has enough common issues like the defeat of the pandemic and the war on poverty and prejudice as real responsibilities as opposed to railing against one another. Surely, we should fight like heck if you think that the newest relief act is pork personified or not, or the country is going to hell in a handbasket, but the discussion should be that of a well-informed person open to other viewpoints for analysis rather than the words emanating from a bully. Here is hoping that we do accept the duty as a United States citizen to preserve the uniqueness which is supposed to govern how we deal with one another rather than excommunicating our brethren who disagree with us.

Arlene Violet is an attorney and former Rhode Island Attorney General.

Arlene Violet

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