Let us move forward.
I’m not overly political. Having been active duty for so long, I purposefully tried to steer clear of political, and polarizing, topics while serving. It’s not that I didn’t find politics engaging or pertinent or essential, just that my apolitical professional position as an officer was more important for me to share with my Marines than my personal beliefs. After all, we take an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, not swear allegiance to an individual president or political party. (Interestingly, the Vice President’s oath is the exact same as mine.)
As Marines, the mission is the most important thing. And we serve at the pleasure of the president, no matter who is in office. I have served under Presidents George Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and now Joe Biden – two Republicans and two Democrats. I am an ardent believer in exercising the right to vote, a right I have sworn to defend with my life, if required. I’ve voted for Republicans and I’ve voted for Democrats. I’ve voted in multiple states across the U.S. and I’ve voted while overseas. I’ve voted in-person and used mail-in ballots. In my ideal political world I’d vote more centrist, as an Independent. However, as the United States is extremely polarized and currently entrenched in a two-party system, I find that it makes more sense for me to vote for one of the main parties. I cast my vote and believe I have done my part as an engaged, educated citizen to keep or change the power at all levels of our government. I have trust in our process. And I accept the results, even if my candidate(s) didn’t win. I have done this for every election since I was 18.
It has been interesting living abroad for the last five-and-a-half years. The United Kingdom is not the same as the United States. There are things I like more about it, and less. The political system is a constitutional monarchy, not a constitutional federal republic. There are similarities (upper house – the Senate and Lords, and lower house – the House and Commons), but there are also major differences (a monarch as the head of state versus a president, an unwritten constitution, a Prime Minister chosen to run by the party and not the public, the Electoral College, etc.). Neither is a perfect system and there are flaws to both. That is what makes studying nations and politics interesting; each has its own way. And America is still “the great experiment,” to quote Alexis de Tocqueville.
Every day we see evolution, change. Some of us like what we are seeing; some of us don’t. And our viewpoint shifts as we age, as life changes our priorities, as we gain different experiences and open ourselves up to new influences, as our leaders rotate in and out of power. This is natural. We are different people today than who we were yesterday or who we will be tomorrow. We all think we are doing our best to live up to our own expectations and potential, and to provide the best life we can for ourselves and our families. Sometimes, this is a daily grind. Sometimes, this is a noble cause. It is often somewhere in-between.
This inauguration was historic. (All inaugurations are historic.) Some Americans celebrated, some mourned. Like any close race or election, this reaction was predictable. Personally, I rejoiced in knowing we now had our first female Vice President in the history of our United States. That I happen to agree with a majority (but not all) of the policies and positions being proffered for this new administration was only a bonus. I make no mistake in thinking the office of President or Vice President is easy. There are extremely complicated questions to answer, both foreign and domestic, and someone will always feel left out or unheard. It’s a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t scenario. Permanently. I do not envy those who live in that position every day. But I appreciate the professionals who volunteer to face the music and do the best they can, for as many Americans as they can, on a daily basis. I respect government.
I was optimistic and hopeful during Joe Biden’s inauguration. To me, the last four years have been chaotic, unpredictable, and full of unnecessary drama from the leader of our country. I’m not saying being unpredictable is necessarily a bad tactic, but it is not one I think is best for America. Maybe I’m wrong. However, it makes sense to me to have professionals doing the job for which they have trained. As a pilot, I went through years of flight training before I earned my wings. And the training didn’t stop once I became a naval aviator; I continually flew training sorties in the fleet, adding to my professional knowledge and experience to make me a better pilot. It makes sense to me to have professional politicians who have the experience and background to become better politicians. Yet, I understand the desire – and perhaps even the need – to have non-politicians in political roles. Change shakes things up. New views and thoughts can have a powerful impact on the future of politics, for better or worse. However, I think Donald Trump was the wrong man to have in power as a non-politician.
With emotions high for many Americans over the last presidency, I welcome a downshift to a more steady-state, normal operation. I know that will be hard to achieve with so many important issues raging around Capitol Hill and, indeed, all of America: the Covid-19 pandemic; domestic strife in the form of far-right extremism and far-left extremism conducting criminal acts across America; the foreign policy tightrope walk with China, Iran, North Korea, and others; and the difficult task of trying to heal a nation deeply divided in its personal beliefs and political views on how best to keep our great country great. There is no easy answer.
But I have faith in the future. I believe the next four years will bring more cooperation and compromise, more discussion and debate, and more political professionalism. To me, this is a good thing. We will never be a perfect country, but we can always strive to get better.
America, I love you. We are one nation. Let’s show the world our potential.