Biden, on the other hand, has delivered a masterclass on keeping calm. Right after the election, when Republicans refused to acknowledge his win, Biden assured us, “They will. They will,” with a relaxed smile. He didn’t engage in the liberal outrage or show the zap of anger many have resorted to, including yours truly.
Calm courage shows up in these iconic photos: The Black woman in the green dress who stood with confidence in front of armed police during a Black Lives Matter protest in 2016; the unidentified man who stood in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square during the 1989 uprising in Beijing. The tanks never fired. More recently, during the George Floyd protests in Portland, Oregon, a woman clothed only in a mask and a cap sat calmly as police shot pepper balls at her feet. Naked Athena held her ground and eventually the police left.
Martin Luther King Jr. understood that non-violence is never instinctual. It takes practice. After a year of boycotting the public bus system in Montgomery, King’s community was jubilant when the courts ruled that segregation on buses was unconstitutional. But King knew the tremendous force it would take to withstand the inevitable acts of hatred and violence as African Americans re-boarded the buses. King posited a breathtaking request of his community: “Be loving enough to absorb evil and understanding enough to turn an enemy into a friend.” Absorb evil? I stand in awe.