It was the harshest election in memory.
A country divided, split down the middle. Each side believing the other is the enemy. Emotions turn to marches and riots. Each side believing the other is to blame.
The man the country had now elected must lower the temperature, turn away from ugly rhetoric and unify.
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies.”
In 1861, after seven states left the Union, Lincoln spoke those words at his inaugural address to the South in order to avoid war. But the divide was too great, the bitterness, too deep, and between 1861 and 1864 those divisions cost 620,000 to 700,000 lives (6 million, today).
In another time of division, President-elect Joe Biden’s speech to the country echoed Lincoln’s sentiments and words.
“We may be opponents — but we are not enemies. I will be a president for all Americans — whether you voted for me or not….
“It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again. Listen to each other again. And to make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as our enemies. They are not our enemies. They are Americans.”
Lincoln’s herculean task after the Civil War was to rebuild the South: roads, farms, cities, schools, economy; to heal and make whole the Union again.
Joe Biden faces an equally demanding task: offer a unifying message, then live up to it.
But our job as Americans is just as demanding.
We need to learn how to listen to each other, again. We need to learn how to talk to each other. We need to learn how to accept others’ differences and dreams without condemnation. We need to trust each other again.
It’s time to reconnect with the words on the Great Seal of the United States: E pluribus unum – out of many, one. Out of many immigrants, one nation.
Evoking Lincoln again, Biden said:
“Our nation is shaped by the constant battle between our better angels and our darkest impulses. It’s time for our better angels to prevail.”
It’s time to heal again.