Last week I compiled my columns which appeared in The Danville News from 2016 till today. How the manuscript will end remains to be seen. We’ll find out soon. It’s a privilege to be part of this newspaper. I remain grateful to Editor Joe Sylvester, this organization and you subscribers.
For obvious reasons, especially if you’re regular readers, I titled this compilation, “The Donald Years.” The manuscript is dedicated to special someones: Our grandchildren. Sure, writers write because they have to write. I catch Gene Kelly’s fever: “Gotta dance!” We also write with an eye to legacy. Every time I put word to paper I imagine my grandchildren fumbling about my library. It’s forgivably selfish, as John Steinbeck wrote in "East of Eden:" “How will I be remembered? Will I be loved or hated? Did the good I did outweigh the evil I have done?”
We old folks indulge in the sin of nostalgia. We should also realize that when you keep looking back at what was, you turn into pillars of salt. Wiser old folks keep an eye on the future, the maybe. How will what we say and do today seed the harvest of tomorrow? After months of this virus and its devastation, and after more than five years of Donald Trump and his damage, given his parade of flunkies and those stink bugs of conspiracy theories infesting our homes, we find refreshing signs of hope and promise, life and beginnings. Each baby born is a sign.
I’ve noticed other signs of hope and promise recently. Three conservative friends who voted for Trump back in 2016, gambling on shaking things up, have had enough and want to be rid of him. You too? Tired of Trump’s corruption? Of his barstool tough-guy act, violations of law and order, extremist policies, arsonist lies, narcissistic pathologies? I’m hoping more have had enough. We want to count on the eventual goodness, honesty and common sense of the American people. The unspoken pain of Trump is that in our secret hearts we know he is us. Trumpism reveals a side of America we nurse but rather keep hidden.
My friends are not as confident as am I that Biden is the providential man for the hour given his relational and political talent, his love for all America, his humane and sensible policies. Still, they remain encouraged that he can build a team to usher in a safe, healthy, genuinely prosperous and sober age for America. Biden, not Trump, values capitalistic economics, leadership, service. Trump, as cowboys drawl, is all hat, no cattle. The choices? I paraphrase Eddie Glaude Jr. from his book on James Baldwin and America’s racism: Double-down on the lie, play it safe, or create anew. Nor can we place on Biden the burden of us courageously loving one another, which is the only hope.
Trump could be re-elected. I admit this possibility. I wasn’t surprised at his Electoral College victory in the last presidential election. Even if he’s re-elected and continues reducing America into Mussolini’s Italy rallying alongside Jim Crow 1950s, my faith remains confident it will not last. Even if he’s re-elected, his world is shrinking. Trumpism will not last. Corruption will not last. Dishonesty will not last. Hate can never last. It may distress America for a while, but it will not last. We shall “begin again.”
It took me a while to realize I wrote these columns for future eyes. It is, I figured, part of what I’m supposed to do as Minister of the Word. Tough to escape the calling, let alone the destiny.
Words matter. Words last.
Grandmas and grandpas won’t last. We hope we’ll see these little ones grow up into the smart and gifted young women and men we nowadays Facetime with, the babies prone to dance, giggle and leap onto their stuffed animals. We hope we’ll get to see them grow up and become the young adults they will be. Odds are, we won’t. We’ll be fuzzy memories to them. We’ll be a photograph or two. We understand. It’s the way of it. We won’t last.
Our words, however, will last.
Today’s children: These bizarre years of your history, birth and present, are crucial years for your future, your country, your world. I’ve written these words because I want you to have a record of what grandma and grandpa believed. In our own way, we fought the good fight for your sake and for all those grandbabies yet to come.
The Rev. Robert Andrews is retired pastor of Grove Presbyterian Church in Danville. Read more of his work at robertjohnandrews.com.