While I fully understand this world is not our home and the United States has not always lived up to its noblest ideas, nevertheless I cannot quit thinking about one thing that was lost last week.
My family has watched every presidential inauguration together for the last 20 years (and the last three Kentucky governor inaugurations). Each time, I've encouraged my kids to be amazed at the peaceful transition of power, that no matter who wins, even when there are shifts from one political party to another, the transition happens orderly and without bloodshed. This phenomenon is almost unprecedented in world history until modern times. Regimes and rulers only changed with violence historically, but the beauty of the American experiment in democracy is that it doesn't happen here.
After the first incumbent president was defeated for a second term resulting in the first transition between political parties occurred in the 1800 election, John Adams wrote the new President Jefferson, his former friend who had become a bitter opponent, on March 24, 1801, concluding that “I see nothing to obscure your prospect of a quiet and prosperous administration, which I heartily wish you.”
In recent decades, I have sentimentally read the letters left behind in the Oval Office by the outgoing presidents assuring their successors of their support. In the most recent such letter, President Obama concluded his letter to President Trump by saying, “Michelle and I wish you and Melania the very best as you embark on this great adventure, and know that we stand ready to help in any ways which we can. Good luck and Godspeed.” It seems unlikely at this point that President Trump will be leaving any such letter for President Biden. We do not at this point know whether this act of civility will be temporarily suspended or permanently lost.
While there will still be a constitutionally-mandated transition from one administration to another on Jan. 20, and I pray that it will be peaceful, I can no longer tell my children that it happens without bloodshed here. Perhaps I was too simplistic, naïve, and idealistic in the past. After all, we have fought a civil war largely due to the election of a president. This new reality is still something that I lament.
Even this, however, can have a good result if it brings us to self-examination and humility, and especially if it causes us to long for "the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God" (Hebrews 11:10).