A Grieving President for a New Mourning by Izzy Warner
Izzy Warner shares her taken on Joe Biden's powerful tool: his grief.
On 20th January 2021, Joe Biden was officially inaugurated as the President of the United States. The day before the same country registered 400,000 Coronavirus deaths.
This inauguration was different to all of its predecessors, with past presidents and public servants separated by masks and social distancing, and hundreds of thousands of American flags replacing the crowd in the National Mall. These safety precautions are now not only commonplace but expected, as the Coronavirus pandemic enters into yet another deadly chapter of pain and grief for the victims and their families. With over 400,000 people dead, the American coronavirus death toll has surpassed the number of American casualties in World War Two. Not only this, but with each death leaving behind an average of 5 people in intense and prolonged grief, this makes an estimated 2 million people in the US in mourning, most likely having lost loved ones in horrendous and traumatic circumstances. If an individual is fortunate enough to not know someone who has lost their life to this virus, the global effect of the pandemic is evident from the loss of businesses, the loss of freedoms in joy and travel, or even just from turning on your phone and the constant breaking news. This level of communal mourning is overwhelming, and unlike anything the US has experienced since 1945.
There has never been a more apt time for a grieving man to be elected President.
A Life of Loss
Joe Biden’s life has been one scarred by grief
and loss. On 18th December 1972, a few weeks after Biden’s election as Senator to Delaware, his wife, Neilia, and one year old daughter, Naomi, were killed in a car accident. This horrific accident left his two other children, Beau aged three and Hunter aged two, in hospital, and Biden, understandably, greatly considered stepping down from this incredible election win to care both for himself and his sons. Instead, he somehow found the strength to carry on, commuting from Delaware to Washington D.C everyday to see his sons, a daily four hour round journey which he maintained for 36 years. 43 years later, Biden would have to experience the anguish of another of his children’s death; this time, his beloved son Beau, who died aged 46 after a battle with brain cancer.
To experience the loss of a spouse alongside the death of two children is a level of suffering which many of us lucky ones will find unimaginable. To continue working as a public servant, commuting four hours to spend time with his remaining motherless sons, and running for president five years after one of those beloved sons has passed away, demonstrates a resilience, perseverance and commitment which many find admirable. To be elected president now in a period of immense individual, communal and global mourning seems to be, in a way, a strange and cruel twist of fate.
The effect of Biden’s immense empathy is only heightened from the former President’s lack thereof.
In 20 minutes of presidency, Biden demonstrated more respect for the victims and their families than Trump ever has with a moments prayer and a heartfelt speech. From Trump’s belittling of the disease, blatant disregard for masks and arrogant remarks of his own virus recovery, he has demonstrated a complete absence of sympathy families in the past year. It seems that Trump has created the lowest levels of expectations in a President’s sympathy; however, even by non-narcissistic levels of sympathy, Biden’s experience with trauma and loss has meant that the empathy he extends to people is extraordinary. Families of the victims of Sandy Hook, the domestic terror attack which killed 26 people, 20 of which were 6-7 year old children, have commented about Biden’s authentic and genuine sympathy.
Not only will this empathy be tested and required during this horrific coronavirus pandemic, but even closer to home in the ‘Justice for Harry’ campaign. Harry Dunn was a 19 year old boy from Northamptonshire who was killed in a collision by a car driving towards him on the wrong side of the road on the 27th August 2019. He was killed near the exit to RAF Croughton, the American Air Force station, and the car was driven by Anne Sacoolas, a former CIA operative and wife of Jonathon Sacoolas, a CIA operative who was working at the station. Sacoolas fled to the US and has claimed diplomatic immunity, despite CCTV and her own admission that she was driving on the wrong side of the road. As such, the family of Harry Dunn are hoping that, with his own experiences of losing his child and wife in a road collision, Biden will assist them in returning Sacoolas to the UK where she will face trial for manslaughter.
'Biden has come to realise that there is strength in weakness'
Biden’s own mourning and grieving of his family creates an accessible vulnerability to the White House which Trump fought against with all of his might. Instead of incessant bullying, Biden has come to realise that there is strength in weakness, and qualities which can be gained, even through the most horrific loses. In this period of collective and individual grief, there is no more necessary time for kindness and understanding to be returned to the White House, for Harry Dunn, and for all coronavirus victims.
Izzy is in her final year of studying English Literature at the University of Exeter, where she has specialised in Virginia Woolf and Creative Writing. Izzy loves to write in her free time, whether that is opinion piece articles centring around personal experiences, or literature and film reviews! Izzy's dream career would be to make a living out of writing, whether through magazine journalism, or through copywriting and different disciplines of writing. Outside of article writing, she is fascinated in the portrayal of disability and chronic illnesses in popular culture and the effect of both physical and mental health on individuals and communities simultaneously; this interest has been inspired by Izzy's own struggles with Ulcerative Colitis, and her experience with grief.
From Izzy: 'It’s such an honour and pleasure to have my work platformed by Ria and Mtrrch, and I hope you enjoyed reading!'