You might think they had little to smile about. Covid-19 was inflicting its worst levels of disease and death since the epidemic began. The most powerful economy in the world was, in the words of several media commentators, ‘tanking’.
And yet, when Joe Biden stood up and finally acknowledged he was to be the next President of the United States, backed by his family and the active and able Vice-President, Kamala Harris, I felt a pride quite disproportionate to my status as a British citizen and therefore outside the US election, looking in.
I, and many of my friends felt a closeness to the recent American political process in a way that had not happened before. Something tangible and dark was trying to end a world, and the thinking people of America had rallied.
I have always been interested in the politics of the USA – my uncle lives in California and I have been a frequent visitor to its shores. My happiest memories there include my wife and I travelling the entire length of Highway One up the Pacific coast from San Diego to Seattle. We didn’t do this in one trip, rather over a series of visits that we would tack on the back of the computer trade shows at which we exhibited on a twice-yearly basis.
My mother was a passionate socialist. I absorbed this growing up. But then, after my computer science degree, I began a series of jobs with American computer firms… and found them exciting and productive places to be. Decades later, I established my own software company in Manchester, and there followed twenty-three years of learning to survive and eventually prosper in business. I feel I can have a reasonably dispassionate view of what works, one that combines the ‘social’ and ‘business’ worlds.
The efficiency and motivation of a thriving ‘American’ style’ environment is second to none. But it’s not the whole story…
I believe that we need equal focus on both entrepreneurial and social actions. I no longer subscribe to the ethic that ‘private is always best’. It isn’t. Anyone who travelled on the wretched urban railways of the north-west of England over the past thirty years will tell you that. Our NHS delivers amazing and free care on an unimaginable scale, and could not possibly be replaced by a combination of private enterprises – something President Obama was trying to replicate, to some degree in the USA, before being thwarted by Congress.
My uncle is Republican; his daughter and my cousin and her partner are Democrats. Over the years of business and social travel, I have listened to their various views, trying to discern the essential ‘signature’ of political thought on each side. John McCain was one of of the Republicans I most listened to. The inherent ‘nobility’ of the man was indisputable. He had never traded on his many years as a prisoner in Vietnam, though others had not forgotten his selfless stance.
He bore its physical and political scars quietly. I remember him facing up to Mitch McConnell – who was standing in front of him to psychologically ‘block’ his way while the Senate voted on yet another of the President’s steps in destroying President Obama’s Affordable Health Act. McCain voted against the Republican bill and ended up having Trump’s hate and the spite of his lackeys heaped upon him, shortly before he died.
The President called him a ‘looser’, this from a man who didn’t serve his military time because of a ‘bone-spur’. I remember an interview with a Republican from Arizona who said that they would remember this comment about one of their favourite sons… The recent vote suggests they did.
McCain had a ‘light in his eyes’. The people dancing in the streets of New York when it was announced that Joe Biden was now President Elect had a light in their eyes, too. I view that light as a very real thing. It is a reflection from within. All people of whatever political persuasion who do their best to live by the truth have this shining in their eyes, however subtly.
In my opinion, Joe Biden has it, too. When he and Kamala Harris stood up to acknowledge their victory, you could see and feel that truth. There is nothing easy about what they are inheriting. America will continue to face challenges, no less than we do in the UK. Sadly, we will face a singular future, having been torn from our ‘United States’ of Europe by the same forces that have just lost the presidential race in the USA and now find themselves hopelessly floundering in the face of a renewed America’s pro-EU stance.
Perhaps the light of that truth will one day shine again in our eyes… I certainly hope so. It was beautiful to watch on those bright American faces.
©Stephen Tanham, 2020.
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, which offers a distance-learning program to deepen the personality and align it with the needs and goals of the soul.