A Catholic US president

INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak - The Philippine Star

We all waited with bated breath last week to see what would happen in the United States election. From Nov. 3 and for several days after, we were glued to the news and social media, and watched clearly tired, but determined board operators like Steve Kornacki and Chuck Todd analyze each state and county, and discuss all possible outcomes based on the number of votes coming in. It was a long and stressful five to six days, but finally over the weekend – with total projections coming in from Pennsylvania and Nevada, the election was finally called in favor of Democratic candidate Joseph R. Biden.

I’m sure the new president-elect attended church with his family to offer prayers of thanks for this victory. He will be the first Catholic president in the White House since John F. Kennedy back in 1960. Kennedy was the youngest and now President-elect Biden is one of the oldest. Either way, both were very open about their faith and it characterized much of their personality and principles.

I appreciate the values that Mr. Biden espouses. Throughout his campaign, he reiterated the platform about fighting for the soul of America and bringing back things such as decency, compassion, and empathy. And while I don’t discount the accomplishments of the Trump administration, I have to admit America has been drastically divided these past several years, and this year it has reached a boiling point in no small part due to the devastating impact of COVID-19.

However, we know that an election is not a magical fix-it button. The fact that it was such a tight race goes to show that the US is still very divided. And after all that has happened in the past year alone and the number of people who have died, millions of Americans still cast their ballot for the incumbent president and that says that still believe in his leadership – or, at the very least, in what he espouses (or that they simply remained loyal to their political party affiliation). Whatever the case, it’s a frightening reality check too because healing a nation this divided is not going to be an easy feat.

Although I am not a US citizen, the US election mattered to me as much as they mattered to everyone else around the world. We can’t pretend that we aren’t all going to be impacted by the outcome after all. Policy in the US bleeds out into the rest of the world and for the Philippines, this is especially true as we have close ties to the United States. On a personal level, my granddaughter and her family are Americans and the election outcome was especially important to them.

It’s been a challenging past several years for both the US and the Philippines. While country-first policies are attractive to citizens in the sense that it promotes boosting your own economy, this type of thinking has largely led to exclusion and division as a major focal point, as opposed to promoting inclusion and working together. Ironically, too, this type of thinking, while supposedly working to unite countries, has often divided them even further, resulting in split citizens with polarizing points of view.

We saw it play out in the election, Red states vs. Blue states, protests, and general unrest. Family and friends abroad – especially in battleground states – talked about how stores were boarded up and people were ready to hunker down because they expected violence to erupt. The fact that they were already forward-planning like that says a lot about the current state of the US nation.

In the end though, despite the presence of semi-automatic weapons out on the streets during protest demonstrations, the elections and the subsequent counting went by relatively unscathed. For that I’m thankful. Democracy can be difficult to swallow, especially when your leader isn’t the one who emerges the victor, but it’s the bedrock of the US government.

And what a display of democracy it was. Voter turnout this year was unparalleled and people who never came out to vote before made it a point to go to the polls this time around. There were huge increases in votes for the youth, for Native Americans, and for people of color. This election mattered to them and they played a big part in voting for the United States that they wanted to build. A United States that included their voices and would, hopefully, give them the proverbial “seat at the table”.

Granted, President Trump has promised that this is not the end, I honestly don’t see this swinging his way anymore. The people have spoken and despite recounts and threats of election fraud (which are still devoid of proof), there are just far too many votes he needs to make the recounts have significant value. I fervently hope that the president finds it in himself to graciously accept defeat like other presidents before him.

I wish President-elect Biden well when it comes to his overwhelming task of healing a hurting America. After all, at the end of the day, that is what the nation really is right now – hurting, scared, and uncertain of the future. People have lost loved ones, jobs, income, and even homes, and desperately need hope for what lies ahead. I hope that is what the next administration can bring them. Together with an excellent Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, I believe this new team is worthy of the enormous task ahead.

Hopefully, once America tries to heal the rifts within it and become “united” once again, this will serve as a clear message to nations all over the globe. We’re all currently facing a common enemy and we can only rise if we do it together.


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