In his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, Joe Biden had this uninspiring assessment of America’s current predicament: “The president keeps telling us the virus is going to disappear. He keeps waiting for a miracle. Well, I have news for him: No miracle is coming.”
Actually, as an American, I feel it’s hard NOT to believe in miracles. As the great historian Paul Johnson has noted, that our nation — “the last, best hope” of the world — even exists is a miracle. That the greatest assembly of men at any time or any place in history came together to write the U.S. Constitution — the most influential document in history outside of the Bible — was a miracle.
The polio vaccine was a miracle. D-Day was a miracle. The inventions of the Wright brothers, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford were world-changing miracles.
The U.S. hockey team in Lake Placid couldn’t possibly beat the mighty Soviets, the greatest team in the world. When they did, Al Michaels of ABC could only announce astonishingly in the final ticks on the clock: “Do you believe in miracles?” Well, the New York Mets did in 1969.
Steve Jobs, a college dropout, started Apple Computer Inc. in a garage, and it is now a $2 trillion company. That is a miracle.
The ability of ordinary Americans to come together as a nation, prevail over adversity and achieve extraordinary things is seemingly imprinted in our DNA. I’ve always loved Robert F. Kennedy’s memorable line: “Some men see things as they are and ask, ‘Why?’ I dream things that never were and ask, ‘Why not?’”
That’s a message for Joe Biden, Donald Trump and all our political leaders to take to heart as we battle a deep economic recession and a virus — the “invisible enemy” that has killed nearly 200,000 Americans in six months.
We are so polarized, angry and anxious now that we are at each other’s throats — literally and figuratively. Many millions of young people are so down on America and so contemptuous of our past role in the world, which has been so obviously and overwhelmingly positive, that even the core idea of American exceptionalism is rejected. We are the one nation in the world that seems to highlight our flaws and not our abundant goodness.
I’m heartened and inspired by the “AmeriCANs” movement to stop the discord — even if only temporarily. After all, this is a campaign season. AmeriCANs isn’t political. In fact, it is sponsored by a group called Pause Politics.
We can and should come together in a patriotic celebration of our past and our combined goodness and our compassion. Millions of people can make positive change — not by tearing down but by building up and by contributing to positive outcomes. Not by burning down in the fits of rage we all feel from time to time these days but by lighting candles and lending a helping hand.
Imagine if we had thousands and thousands of young people from Black Lives Matter to conservative and church groups, dedicating themselves in the weeks ahead to repairing the damage to Kenosha, Wisconsin; Chicago; Portland, Oregon; and Seattle. What better way to heal than by putting politics aside to advance justice and peace? The whole nation and the whole world would be watching this latest American miracle.