Just as I was reveling in the loosening of Covid rules and celebrating the new normalcy – going around with a smile on my face and a spring in my step, getting together with fully vaccinated friends, happily hugging them and relatives at our first reunions in more than 15 months, not taking any of this for granted – my activities have been circumscribed by an unfortunate turn of events. Rushing joyfully along the stone path in my garden, hell-bent to get Rabbit Scram repellent from the garage and determined to protect my plantings from the varmints nibbling away at them, I turned my ankle. Now, with a torn tendon and fractured bone, my right foot – yes, my driving foot – is in a boot. I rather feel as if I’m back in lock-down. The long-dreamed-of summer of trips to the beach, walks in the woods, excursions to museums is on hold once again. Yes, I need to suppress my spoiled-brat whining. I’m very lucky that that the foot is fixable.
So, too, I’m beginning to feel, is the country. And, if realized, that could be very good news. Some examples from this week alone. First, in chronological order, Attorney General Merrick Garland’s speech outlined a comprehensive policy for dealing with domestic terrorism and violent extremism on all fronts. (This followed earlier, thoughtful comments restating his commitment to civil rights and voting rights.) The policy is clear, cogent, compelling, and comforting.
Second, we watched President Biden on the international scene, first at the G-7 summit and then after a meeting with Vladimir Putin. In Cornwall, England, Biden had the opportunity to send the European leaders (+Japan) the message that America is back and will play a leadership role on issues like global trade, climate change, China and security. In Geneva, Biden was able to cover a range of topics with Putin, the results of which conversation may not be known for months if not years. Without specific deliverables, Biden was able to claim that the mere fact of a serious face-to-face conversation with our adversary was itself a sign of success. For his part, the Russian ex-KGB heavy, without ceding an inch on essentials, described Biden as “an extraordinary individual, talented individual,” and also used words like “efficient” and “substantive.” What was most remarkable and reassuring was the contrast between Biden’s meeting with Putin and that of Donald Trump’s infamous Helsinki meeting in which our Putin’s-poodle President was alternately secretive and sycophantic.
The icing on the cake was today’s 7-2 Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act. Only Justices Joseph Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented. This decision reinforces previous Supreme Court decisions, but the validation by the increasingly conservative Court was a real positive, even if decided only on procedural grounds. It’s especially good news for the tens of millions of people who now have coverage through Medicaid or despite preexisting conditions and lack of employer-provided insurance. A second, unanimous decision came down in defense of religious freedom and the First Amendment right of a Philadelphia Catholic Social Services agency not to place children for adoption by same-sex couples. This is not without fallout for the LGBTQ community, but the decision was narrowly drawn to rebuke the city’s denial of a service contract with CSS because of the agency’s religious beliefs on gay marriage.
On all of these fronts, the long-term implications of all these events, as television reporters often lazily wrap, “remain to be seen.” We don’t know. We don’t know the fate of negotiations on infrastructure, voting rights and climate change legislation. We do know that we were hammered by years of devastating news and the divisive, ignorant and incompetent behavior of the previous administration. Now, to the extent that Biden appointees have cleared GOP obstacles, we have experience, information, maturity and a measure of wisdom that present clear and convincing evidence that the grown-ups are back. Now it’s the job of all reasonable people to make sure that, in the 2022 midterm election and beyond, those experienced, informed, mature and wise public servants are kept around.
This will be no small achievement given the biases of redistricting and the dystopic rewriting of state election laws by Trump acolytes. It’s time to take my boot out for a small walk and smell the roses.
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