Within the past few days I’ve seen social media posts encouraging “unity and healing.” Some messages scold Democrats for wanting impeachment; some exhort us not to let “politics” or “politicians” ruin friendships or family relationships.
I get it. I’m a middle child, an Enneagram 2, an otter, an “i” in the DISC — I like cooperation and peace. I want everyone to like everyone and for all of us to get along. I completely understand the desire to jump ahead to unity — or at least the appearance of it.
But most of the social media posts I’ve seen calling for unity and healing and for us not to let politics ruin relationships are coming from conservatives who have either vocally supported President Trump or have silently supported him. To now speak up and call for unity after supporting the most divisive politician in our history — well, that’s disingenuous at best and gaslighting at worst.
Trump used his position and voice to incite far-right followers to storm the Capitol with the intention of taking over the government. These insurrectionists planned to kill the politicians they saw as their enemies. Just prior to the storming of the Capitol, Rudy Giuliani exhorted them to engage in “trial by combat.” Trump has spent months riling up this part of his base with angry lies and conspiracy theories. He’s spent five years leading rallies in which he’s spewed hate speech and encouraged violence and physical harm against those who disagree.
Again and again, perpetrators of violence have invoked Trump’s name — white men threatening black neighbors with a knife, a white guy threatening to burn down a Muslim family’s home, a man mailing pipe bombs to Democratic senators, a mass shooter in Texas, a teenager who opened fire and killed people at a Black Lives Matter protest, terrorists who plotted to kidnap governors, brothers who peed on a homeless man and beat him with a metal pipe. Repeatedly, Trump has advocated for violence and has been reluctant to condemn violence or white supremacists – and when he has finally condemned it, he has spoken out of both sides of his mouth so as not to alienate that portion of his base.
After years of this vile poison, his supporters are finally speaking up and asking for unity and healing? Now that the person they’ve supported has incited an insurrection and attempted a coup? Now that a fragment of their political party showed up to the Capitol Building with zipties and nooses and bombs?
No. That’s not how it works.
No matter how much we want the appearance of unity, the appearance of peace – we cannot fake it now. True peace and unity will require a reckoning. It will require accountability, acknowledgement of bad decisions, honesty. You cannot support a man who stokes division and then call for unity after his attempted coup fails. It doesn’t work like that. When you’ve ignored his fascist leanings for five years and praised his rude, divisive “tell it like it is” personality, you can’t ask everyone else to just pull together and get along now that he’s proven that the warnings about him were true.
“Let’s not let political differences ruin relationships” is fine and good for differences of opinion about tax rates and environmental or corporate regulations, about foreign policy and healthcare. But now – one side thinks it’s OK for a sitting President to incite an angry mob to storm the Capitol in order to overturn an election, and the other side thinks that’s not OK in the United States of America. That isn’t merely a difference in politics.
When our grandchildren and great-grandchildren look back on this time, calls for surface unity now will be akin to Old Aunt Betsy admonishing the family, “C’mon, boys, don’t let this Civil War ruin our family. So what if Bobby supports slavery and Billy’s an abolitionist. Don’t let those politicians and generals destroy your relationship.” Or for Grandma Lina exhorting her children, “Please let’s just all get along. Gerhard has joined the Nazi Party and you haven’t, Heinz, but don’t let that Adolph guy come between you.” Or for Papaw Raymond scolding his family, “Why are you going to let that Martin Luther King man and George Wallace divide this family? Neither of them even knows who you are, but you’re going to let them drive a wedge between us!”
No. Sometimes there is an obvious choice for justice and decency and righteousness. And it’s a good thing to hold fast and stand firm and speak up. And the only way for unity is for those who are in the wrong to acknowledge and repent and join the work for justice and decency and righteousness.
Then – and only then – we can have true unity and healing.