In My Own Words: The first months by Rabbi Rachel Esserman

I suddenly realized that I hadn’t written anything about President Joe Biden since he’s taken office. That’s not because I agree with everything he’s done. I’m reserving judgment on some of his policies, particularly as they reference Israel and the Middle East. I do like the fact he’s taken the COVID crisis far more seriously than our previous president, who didn’t seem disturbed about a disease that is now the number one cause of death in the United States. I’m also glad Biden is looking into gun control laws after the most recent gun violence, rather than just offering thoughts and prayers, which have never had any effect. His take on immigration still needs work, although the immigration crisis is long standing and can’t be solved even if our country completely opens its doors or completely closes them.

But I think the main reason that I haven’t written about Biden is something else: what might be called “the quiet” emanating from the White House. What do I mean by that? No one is calling people names; no one is saying nasty things about individuals, states, companies or political opponents with whom they disagree; no one is denying science nor advocating that we ignore common sense. It feels so strange to have a president who works on policies and laws without demanding either constant daily approval (by likes on Twitter, for example) or the attention given by the press after saying outrageous things deliberately meant to insult or injure people, and play havoc with our emotions. 

By the way, my thoughts have nothing to do with the party that is occupying the White House. I cannot imagine Presidents George H. W. Bush or George W. Bush calling people names in public or deriding their opponents with nasty names or advocating violence against them. The same is true for President Ronald Reagan. I didn’t vote for either of the Bushs or for Reagan, but they were dignified in public and took their oath of office seriously enough to act presidential. I know their times were before Twitter and Facebook, but they did have press conferences and other opportunities to insult and degrade people, and they did not take them. When in office, they acted as if they were worthy of sitting in the presidential chair in the Oval Office, and that is enough to make me respect them. While I might have disagreed with their policies, they didn’t throw public temper tantrums like a 2-year-old if they didn’t get their way or lie about the results of an election.

I’ve no doubt I’ll be writing more about Biden – good and bad. No president is perfect and people who put politicians on a pedestal, claiming they can do no wrong, are more dangerous than cynics who think politicians always make things worse. Hero worship – as shown with our last president – is exceedingly dangerous and can lead to violence, including, for example, threats by his followers to hang Mike Pence, the Republican vice president. We need to remember that politicians are just like the rest of us: flawed humans who (we hope and pray) are trying to do their best. 

I know that Biden has his flaws and will call him on them. But I also will enjoy “the quiet,” the lack of attacks on opponents – Democrats and Republicans – who disagree with him and the joy of having as president someone who takes his responsibilities and duties, and the dignity of the office, seriously.