Culture

To the Best of My Ability

“However much I may be impressed by the difference between a star and the dark space around it, I must not forget that I can see the two only in relation to each other, and that this relation is inseparable.” – Alan Watts

In the United States, we have this peaceful transfer of power every four to eight years, depending on whether someone was re-elected or not. It seemed a rather ordinary thing until some folks spun up some other folks to attempt a violent overthrow. Most Americans recoiled when they saw that, knowing it isn’t who we are. A few celebrated it for the anarchy and division it created. Such are our differences.

Amplifying our differences became a nagging pursuit over the last five years of Trump. Biden is built differently. Built on empathy and unity and a healthy dose of humility. Strong leaders draw people of strong character to their circle. Weak leaders do the opposite. When you pull back the covers there’s really not much of substance there.

Four years ago I’d hoped the guy I didn’t vote for would rise to the job. I hope for the same for the guy I voted for this time around. It turned out to be a particularly bad time to have a weak, divisive President in this country. But now we move on, with a guy that hopefully doesn’t pose in front of the heads on Mount Rushmore, but instead works to emulate their best attributes.

We all have the best and worst attributes encoded within us, don’t we? With some only the venom reaches the surface. But some are better at drawing out the very best in themselves and others. And that’s where I hope we are now and for many years to come. We’ve seen the relation between our brightest tendencies and our darkest, and it was jolting. Now that we’ve finally all seen how fragile Democracy is, what will we do next?

Ultimately, in the United States we give the new President a shot at leading to the best of their ability. And hope that they might reach beyond expectations. Every four years, usually on January 20th (unless a Sunday), they take the oath, not to lead, but to serve:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” – Presidential Oath of Office, in accordance with Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution

Many will note there’s nothing in that oath about being an ethical, decent human being. But it’s implied one ought to rise up to the responsibilities granted in the role. Some are satisfied with reaching the title and not doing the work necessary to unite and lead the country. But the thing is, something fills the void when character isn’t present. When you look at the stars, take a look at the dark space around them. And note the relationship between the two.

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