Andrea Ayvazian: Let the rebuilding begin

  • Andrea Ayvazian SUBMITTED PHOTO

Published: 10/16/2020 11:44:09 AM

The Biden-Harris duo is going to win the election. All the polls show that Biden has a commanding lead, and many of Trump’s core constituents are turning against him as the pandemic rages on.

So this column is not about the necessity of “voting like your life depends on it”— we got that. It is not about how we should tell all our grown kids, friends, colleagues, neighbors, fellow worshippers and strangers on the street to make sure they vote —we got that. This column is about the post-election world, with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as our leaders. It’s about how much work still lies ahead for those who care deeply about the planet, our democracy, human rights and racial justice — how the organizing, speaking out, writing op-eds, marching, chanting, vigiling and rallying must and will continue. Do not put your sneakers away; many of your placards will still be relevant.

In this new world, we will still be confronting the pain and division, injustice and grief, loss and sorrow we have been living through for years. We can take a day or two off to sleep late, maybe have some pizza and beer, and then we need to be right back at it. When the votes are all counted and Biden is declared the victor, our activism and organizing will change, but it will not end. Let’s agree now that we will never get complacent. Let’s commit to each other now that we will still take to the streets when necessary, still give generously to causes we believe in, still hold our elected officials’ feet to the fire.

The painful and dramatic divisions in this country have been brewing for decades, many would say centuries. A new administration will not be able to reverse course or solve enormous national problems quickly. The Biden administration will face pressure to move to the center on divisive issues and to placate those on both extremes. The new administration will also face backlash, criticism, anger and attacks from unhappy and alienated Trump supporters. It will not be easy for the new administration, and we will have to remain active on many fronts.

Post-election, we will need to continue to confront the appalling inequities that the pandemic has made excruciatingly evident. COVID has made most Americans face the reality that countless workers in this country who are considered “essential” are paid poverty-level wages. These workers may be essential, but they are treated as disposable — their hard and risky work is under-paid, under-valued, and often hazardous. Post-election, we will need to continue to raise the issue of paying all workers a living wage, protecting workers from exploitation and workplace hazards, and insuring health care for all as a basic human right. We are equal to the task.

Over the next many years, we must continue to raise the issue of the ongoing nature of personal, cultural and institutional racism in America, to name it over and over and over again as the foundational oppression upon which this country was built. Our work dismantling racism in every American institution is ongoing and will not end because the new president has Black supporters and the vice president is a woman of color. We have started a national conversation on race that is centuries overdue. The work that lies ahead will be difficult and uncomfortable for countless white people. We are equal to the task.

The ongoing work to confront the climate emergency we are living through will, of course, continue. That struggle will demand our daily engagement, our strongest and most creative selves, our commitment, clarity and relentless organizing. That work stretches on ahead, even if we have a president who commits to overcoming the climate crisis.

We will celebrate when Biden and Harris win. But the celebrations will be brief because in this country there is so much that now needs to be mended, repaired and healed.

In the coming years, people who love democracy and embrace justice will need to find creative ways to bridge the divides in this country that have torn and shredded our “united” states into a profoundly un-united country. We will have to learn new ways of listening, find new ways of healing, turn down the shrill nature of our rhetoric, promote the benefits of nonviolence and build bridges between blue and red, us and them. This will be hard. We will need our best selves to come to the fore, our most patient, patriotic selves to emerge, and we will need to be disciplined and committed and not grow weary.

The good news is that we are equal to the tasks that lie ahead. We have what it takes to renew and rebuild this nation. Biden says we will “build back better.” I say we are ready to begin an era of deep transformational change in this country — it is needed, and it is time. What a blessing it is that we are brave, prepared and ready. Let the new chapter begin.

The Rev. Dr. Andrea Ayvazian of Northampton is an associate pastor at Alden Baptist Church in Springfield. She is also the founder and director of the Sojourner Truth School for Social Change Leadership.

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