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Friday, January 20, 2017

Unity? No thank you

I recently posted this as a comment on a FB page on which the page owner was calling for unity as we inaugurated a new president.
The time for politics is never over. Politics is how we mediate between different visions of a future for our country; politics is how we attempt to find ways to compromise. Politics is how we oppose policies and actions that we believe are destructive. To the extent possible, we should engage in politics with grace, dignity, and civility, without demonizing people whose politics are different from ours. But to put aside politics is not to demonstrate love for America, it is to abdicate our responsibilities as Americans.

Unity is not, particularly a virtue. Unity when there are strong differences between our conceptions of a good society means that we have given up, or been frightened or coerced into silence. Unity when there are sincere disagreements is to fail in our responsibilities as citizens.
I hope those of us who oppose the policies of Donald Trump and Paul Ryan can oppose them successfully, and with grace and dignity. But to oppose them, we must engage in politics. And politics can be divisive. That's life. We lived through divisiveness for the past 8 years, and the 8 years before that, and the 12 before that. As long as I can remember, there have been divisions. Franklin Roosevelt was reviled. Truman was referred to as too dumb to be president. Eisenhower was condemned for being a genial, passive figurehead. Kennedy was despised enough that many people actually, publicly, welcomed his assassination. Johnson was reviled, first, for pressing for civil rights legislation, and then for the war in Viet Nam. Nixon...well, let's not go there...

Play fair, yes. Don't lie, yes. Don't distort the other person's ideas, yes. Don't use fear and hatred to gain support for your policies, yes. As far as possible, treat your opponents with respect, yes. Give up your principles? Not ever. And if the people on the other side lie and fear-monger and race-monger and treat large numbers of our fellow Americans with disrespect, call them out for it. Play fair, fight hard for what you believe in. And try to make the world a better place.

But unity? No thank you. Not now. Probably not ever


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