A first-hand account of the celebration heard around the world and the thoughts that followed
“In the Middle of It All” has been Wilmington’s motto for nearly a decade and never did it feel more accurate than it did during last month’s election frenzy.
Thrust into the world spotlight, our little Wilmington instantly transformed into the center of the media universe, its gravitational pull growing stronger with the arrival of each news team.
Then, during the celebration of Biden’s win that Saturday night, it was suddenly like New Year’s Eve with our Riverfront standing in for Times Square. Well-known landmarks like the Chase Center and Frawley Stadium looked nearly unrecognizable—yet majestic—bathed in colors of red, white, blue and patterns of stars and stripes.
Millions of dollars could not have bought Wilmington better exposure.
However, as proud as I felt to be a Delawarean, the thing that stuck with me days later was a sentiment Biden shared. It’s an idea he’s expressed a hundred times before, but that night it seemed perfect for the moment.
“It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric,” he said, “lower the temperature, see each other again. Listen to each other again. And to make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as our enemies. They are not our enemies. They are Americans.”
All the flag-waving and the fireworks certainly felt patriotic that night, but nothing felt more unifying to me than that message. Not even close.
It’s not an earth-shaking revelation to say America is suffering from relationship issues. The notion of “critical thinking” has given way to thoughtless criticism. Our “social media” has turned ruthlessly anti-social. And the art of people “respectfully disagreeing” has morphed into people mutually agreeing to disrespect one another as nastily as they can.
We are not, as President George Bush would say, a “kinder, gentler nation” at the moment. Rather, we’ve gone full-on Grinch. Probably even worse.
When Biden talks about not treating our political opponents as enemies, a local can’t help but guess if that’s a lesson he learned following “The Delaware Way.” For decades that philosophy of cooperation and understanding between the political parties worked wonders for the First State. In fact, longtime political insiders have told me it was, in many ways, the secret to our success.
Yet, in recent years, that ideal has been seemingly abandoned even here.
Some of my fellow Democrats might be concerned that I’m saying this, but I’m not looking for a Kumbaya-meets-Hands-Across-America moment. I’m simply hoping for a change of tone, the return of more civility to modern civilization.
A new President might help change that. But no President should be tasked with the charge entirely. Like the elections themselves, it should be up to us as individuals.
Photos by Joe del Tufo and Lindsay duPhily.