As Donald Trump basks in a self-designed and elaborate military send-off from Washington and Joe Biden takes the solemn oath of office as our 46th president, I am reminded that in America, we don’t do kings.
We do elections. Free and fair elections: cries and lies of fraud don’t make it so.
Our system is not perfect, especially with regard to an antiquated Electoral College system that was designed to prevent the selection of a truly bad actor but ended up giving us the one now departing.
Still, it’s our system. We choose. We, the people.
Recent days have shown us just how diverse our people are. It’s frightening to see how so many have been led into delusion by those skilled in feeding their fears and inflaming their bigotry with falsehoods.
It has been alarming to recognize the power of social media and the moguls who control it.
It has been heartbreaking to see so many preachers and their followers exchanging the teachings of Jesus for racist mantras and anonymous conspiracies.
And yet, however misguided we may believe they are, these are also our people. They all have mothers and others who have loved them.
When I think of people in the angry mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, I wonder what struggles they have faced, what disappointments they have known, what inspires such rabid allegiance to a man who clearly cares only for himself.
It’s as if they wanted to turn the presidency into a kingship and democracy be damned.
But we don’t do kings.
When the elders of Israel approached Samuel and asked for a king (1 Samuel 8), they pleaded a need to be like other nations, with a king “to go before us and fight our battles.”
They wanted a strong man who could demand allegiance, defeat their perceived enemies, and make Israel great.
What they got was Saul, a man who won some battles but failed to earn the respect of either Samuel or his people. His rule rapidly devolved into self-serving paranoia and he spent much of his reign making enemies of his own people.
Later kings were sometimes greeted with hope and at other times with mistrust. Even David, often presented as the ideal king, betrayed his faithful soldiers, pandered to his children, and grew progressively less concerned for his people.
If we can believe 1 Kings 1:1-2:9, David spent his last days as a weak and bitter man who talked about God while seeking vengeance against those who had offended him.
We don’t do kings.
I will pray for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in coming days, and hope they can truly provide healing, caring leadership for the nation.
I will also pray for those who will strive to undermine and oppose them.
A recent “Cryptoquote” puzzle reminded me of a quote attributed to Albert Einstein: “In the middle of difficulties lies opportunity.”
If the size of the opportunity is related to the size of the difficulties this administration has inherited, then we have a massive occasion for an upswing ahead of us.
We don’t do kings, but we do hope.
We hope, and we work, appreciating our liberty while working for justice – for all.