Biden and Harris Believe You Deserve Sanity in Your Daily Lives

Everyone is talking about Joe Biden and Kamala Harris's speeches at the Democratic National Convention this past week as being a return of empathy or decency, but I'd go one further with another overarching theme: "Remember sanity?" It was truly like watching a funhouse mirror version of our reality, except it took the warped world around us and made it look natural again. It was honestly like you could exhale and not just wonder what insane shit might follow after the last round of insane shit.

That was what Biden and Harris imparted: a sense that we could possibly exist in a normal nation, one that wasn't constantly on the brink of exploding in violence or just collapsing into itself, unable to bear the weight of one man's insatiable ego. Harris vividly described our national anxiety: "We're at an inflection point. The constant chaos leaves us adrift. The incompetence makes us feel afraid. The callousness makes us feel alone. It's a lot." Then she went full inspirational speaker: "And here's the thing: We can do better and deserve so much more."

For his part, Biden told us the things that we deserve in a newly-sane America, like a national plan to deal with the coronavirus (although it's likely at least another 100,000 of us will die before we even get to January 20, 2021). And he laid out the choice in terms that Joseph Campbell's ghost would approve of: "We can choose the path of becoming angrier, less hopeful and more divided. A path of shadow and suspicion. Or we can choose a different path, and together, take this chance to heal, to be reborn, to unite. A path of hope and light."

Both the speeches were solid and inspirational enough. They called on our better angels that have been repressed for four years to make an appearance. They vaguely promised on much of their agenda, but the main point, made again and again, was that shit's gone crazy and that's no way for people to live. 

Both spoke about Donald Trump in terms that turned his incompetence into a tragedy, while avoiding ascribing evil intent to his actions. That was a bit of a disappointment, sort of like saying, "The arsonist didn't know how big the fire would be." In what was probably his best line, Biden gave Trump the employee annual review he's needed for decades: "Our current president has failed in his most basic duty to this nation. He failed to protect us. He failed to protect America. And, my fellow Americans, that is unforgivable." It's honestly the most coldly logical assessment of Trump's fuckery as you could get. You could almost picture Trump being dragged off in cuffs like at the end of a Scooby-Doo episode, calling back, "And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for that meddling virus!" Because COVID-19 deaths cannot be happy-talked into non-existence. Because long-term damage to the victims and to the economy will not go away "like a miracle." We are an open wound right now. Biden wants us to heal. 

And I loved how Harris took back the notion of family from the formerly "Family Values" party. Family isn't just your parents and siblings, she said. "Family is my best friend, my nieces and my godchildren. Family is my uncles, my aunts—my chitthis. Family is Mrs. Shelton—my second mother who lived two doors down and helped raise me. Family is my beloved Alpha Kappa Alpha...our Divine 9...and my HBCU brothers and sisters. Family is the friends I turned to when my mother—the most important person in my life—passed away from cancer." That expansive definition of families, one not held to the narrow, isolating, alienating world view that conservatives propagate. If your family includes all of those people, then you're gonna give a fuck when they are hurting, too.

When Republicans and the right-wing commentariat declared that Biden and Harris and the whole DNC were "angry" or presenting a "dark" perspective on the nation, it's bullshit because they weren't angry at the United States. They were angry at how dark Trump and the GOP have made the country. It would be ludicrous not to be angry, and the whole thing could have been 100 times angrier and still not approached the level of anger that the bastards deserve.

Because the implication of the showing of empathy is that Trump treats us with antipathy, the implication of the fostering of decency is that Trump is indecent, and the implication of the return of sanity is that Trump is insane. 

Essentially, Biden and Harris are promising that we can take one fucking terrible thing off the table: the thought that our government is actively, intentionally harming us just for shits and giggles. And then we can work to actually make things better. At this point, goddamn, that's enough.