“America, Land that We Love”
“America, Land that We Love”
From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon
Never have I witnessed such a thing and neither have you. Years ago, when I was a boy in the 1970’s, I watched President Nixon announce his final words after resigning from office and then departing from the White House on a helicopter. With his signature victory sign, he literally flew off into the sunset. After President Ford pardoned him, he said, “Our national nightmare is over.” Some were angered by Ford’s decision to circumvent justice for the former president, but others found justice in the legacy that Nixon had to endure the rest of his life. He was given credit for opening the way with China, but his presidency would always be tarnished by the mere mention of the word “Watergate.” Our country moved on but not without greater suspicion of government.
Today, an election, not a resignation, brought to an end a second term for Trump. In every state, attorneys general, both republican and democrat, vouched for their respective legal and secure election processes. When the electoral votes were added up, a new president-elect was chosen by the American voters. Joe Biden won fair-and-square, as children say. Though the election results will not be certified until December, and the tallying and recounting continue, it will be to no advantage for the president. No one except the president and his associates raised persistent questions about their veracity. Without so much as a word by Trump about Biden’s victory, the American people are denied their faith in their democracy and confidence in their future. For what?
No matter who achieved 270 electoral votes, I was prepared to accept an election outcome that would have driven me and others to continue to advocate for the social issues that Judaism has always championed, including education, healthcare, and civil rights. But, when “fair-and-square” is good enough for children but not the president of the United States, then we have reached a low point in our national life that we will get around but may never truly get over.
In history, even Moses was denied permission to enter the Promised Land. His offense was “not upholding God’s sanctity before the eyes of the Israelite people.” Trump is no Moses, for sure, but he has failed to uphold the sanctity of the laws of our land, the foundation of our peaceful transfer of power that has prevented dictators and kings from emerging among us, and has violated the character of his office for all to see. The Promised Land isn’t anyone’s reward, today, but a lasting legacy of goodness, humility and selflessness is, potentially. Trump has, so far, avoided any possibility of bearing any of these rewards in his future.
What is truth, today? How do we demonstrate it to our children? Who are our best role models of diplomacy, character and faith? Today, it’s no longer the person who holds the highest office in the land. Republican or Democrat, the office of the presidency has been tainted. There are consequences.
Friends, our national nightmare must end so that the political process can continue. If you’re a Republican fan of Trump, then continue to advocate for what you care about most. In four years, support your new candidate and vote again. If you’re a Democratic fan of Biden, then congratulations on your victory, and continue to hold the president-elect accountable for the issues you hold dear and wish for your neighbors, too. In four years, support your candidate and vote again. If you’re a proud American, and I know that you are, then let’s hold each successive president and every office holder accountable. Now, let’s think about our children and grandchildren. Can we join hands to assure them that the highest office of the land and a life of public service is honorable? Are we prepared to demonstrate humility for their sake, and to model truth and honesty even when we are not victorious?
Our prayer book contains a well-known poem that urges us to know that “victory lies not at some high place along the way, but in having made the journey, state by stage, a sacred pilgrimage.” Therein lies our hope to remember and to teach that our life is a sacred pilgrimage, “made stage by stage, from birth to death, to life everlasting.” As a nation, may we move from this stage to the next with dignity and truth.
God bless America, and may America honor God through duty, truth, and peace.