A summons to unity: Prayers for President Biden and Vice President Harris

Just last week, Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. took the oath as the 46th president of the United States.

In a moment of historic majesty, President Biden noted “the resilience of our Constitution and the strength of our nation.”

Just two weeks before President Biden’s inauguration, a raucous mob stormed the Capitol in an effort to disrupt the processes of American democracy. As our new president noted, “…democracy has prevailed.”

In the early days of the Biden  administration, America confronts existential challenges. Can our nation, divided by deep divisions, unite under the mantle of our traditions that bind us together?

President Biden supplied answers to the conundrums that have plagued us by saying, “So now, on this hallowed ground, where just days ago violence sought to shake the Capitol’s very foundation, we come together as one nation, under God, indivisible, to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries.”

And, he reminded the nation that “the American story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us.”

The new administration begins its work after one of the most contentious elections in American history. And, while supporters of former President Trump are undoubtedly disappointed with the election’s outcome, the quest for unity summons the best in all Americans.

In recent weeks, America has witnessed the doomsayers — those who would rip us asunder. Those are the followers of QAnon, Proud Boys, the Aryan Nation and other naysayers who believe the American experience must be shattered.

These splinter groups are not steeped in America’s history. The United States has overcome and prevailed over seismic challenges to our republic.

In the 1850s, congressmen armed themselves with pistols and Bowie knives as they debated the future of slavery in the Union. On May 22, 1856, Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina entered the Senate chamber carrying a cane. Brooks assaulted Senator Charles Sumner of  Massachusetts, beating him with his cane until Sumner lost consciousness. As Professor Joanne B. Freeman wrote in “The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to the Civil War,” more than 70 violent episodes erupted between members of Congress from 1850 to 1860.

Before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States was mired in debate over whether the nation should fight in the Second World War. Japan’s surprise attack on Dec. 7, 1941, ended the debate, and the nation united behind President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who declared that Pearl Harbor Day was “a date which will live in infamy.”

America withstood the Red Scare and the dark days of McCarthyism. A crusade for Civil Rights in the 1960s, and enactment of the Civil Rights bills under President Johnson’s leadership, paved the way for voting rights and educational and housing opportunities for African Americans. Hundreds of thousands of Americans protested the Vietnam War in the streets of America. Ultimately, those protests led to the end of that dark chapter in American history.

More recently, the entire nation rallied behind President George W. Bush after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Images of planes flying into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, united Americans as the country witnessed the unleashing of evil incarnate from an unprovoked attack by al-Qaida.

President Biden pointed out that the coronavirus is “a once-in-a-century virus (that) silently stalks the country. It’s taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War II. Millions of jobs have been lost. Hundreds of thousands of businesses closed

“A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear. And now arise political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat,” President Biden said.

America has experienced a sense of national fatigue that borders on exhaustion. After a tumultuous period, our country hungers for a period of normalcy. This is not about partisanship.

As The Dallas Morning News noted last week, The White House “doesn’t have to be the set of a never-ending reality television drama.”

Let us consecrate President Biden and Vice President Harris with our prayers as they embark on their new duties.

The pandemic is still the hallmark of American life. More than 420,000 Americans have lost their lives to this insidious disease. As vaccines are distributed more widely among us, let us hope that this awful disease abates, and a wellspring of health permeates our nation.

Let us renew our faith in the inherent goodness of the American people. May we transcend our divisions and rekindle a spirit of tolerance and respect for opposing viewpoints.

May Hashem bless President Biden and Vice President Harris as they seek to lead us through the pandemic to a better future for all Americans.

A version of this editorial appeared in the Jan. 28 edition of the Jewish Herald-Voice in Houston and is reprinted with permission.

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