Your Call For Unity Is Selfish, Not Magnanimous
Republicans everywhere are waving the unity banner. There are calls for bridge building from government leaders, friends and relatives, and neighbors we go to church with. Let’s not dwell in the past. Sure, we called for a mob to kill Pence and encouraged people with bombs and guns to storm the Capitol, but it’s time to move forward, let’s forgive and forget ASAP.
If you see someone call for unity, don’t trust them. They don’t have the country’s best interests in mind. They like to think they are being magnanimous, but really, their calls come from a place of selfishness. They are uncomfortable facing the news. Maybe they are lifelong Republicans and don’t like seeing what the Republican party has become. Maybe they voted for Trump and now regret it. Maybe any political talk makes them uneasy because they sold their soul for a tax cut, so they’ll say talking about politics is rude, and try to change the subject. They want to move on, they want to focus only on pleasant things and brush all this hard stuff under the rug. Do not let them.
The mom in me wants to level with them: Hey Kiddos, you’re skipping some steps. Coming together won’t happen, literally can not happen, until there is justice.
Sure, we could try to skip the justice and just pretend we’re sincere about coming together. Only, we tried that for about the last 50 years (or is 150 more accurate?), and it turns out, it doesn’t work. Pretending to come together benefits those in power, protects whiteness, and hurts everybody else. So, before we wring our hands about togetherness, we need to tackle justice. Justice = appropriate consequences for those who hurt people, and for the people who were hurt.
Pretending to come together benefits those in power, protects whiteness, and hurts everybody else.
For reasons I don’t quite understand, consequences — which people experience every day for every one of their actions — have developed a sort of bad rap, even though consequences aren’t always (or even usually) negative. So let’s discuss what consequences could look like when we consider the attack on the Capitol.
What should the consequences be for those who intended to kill? The ones who brought bombs, zip ties, guns, and other weapons to the Capitol? Those who brought supplies and plans to build an actual gallows, hung a noose, and screamed “Hang Mike Pence”? At the very least, shouldn’t their consequences begin with arrest and prosecution for these very obvious crimes? Additional consequences could include things like getting fired, losing the right to vote, jail time, or maybe a lifetime ban from Olive Garden. And perhaps no one will want to date them anymore — some consequences we get to determine, and others just happen naturally.
What should the consequences be for those who only protested and then went home? If they didn’t break laws, I suppose their consequence is getting to go on with their lives as usual, anxiously waiting for Q to finally share the endlessly promised compelling evidence of fraud, and living as gullible targets of Trump’s never-ending fundraising con. If they were unmasked in D.C., the natural consequence is a high likelihood of getting Covid-19, infecting their loved ones back home, and possibly experiencing lifelong debilitating effects from that infection. Or even dying.
What about politicians? What consequences should Senators like Cruz and Hawley face? How about the 138 Republican House members who challenged the results of the presidential election even though they definitely knew there is zero evidence of election fraud? Should they continue to hold office after trying to overthrow the results of an election that was determined free and fair in over 60 court cases? Many of them presided over by conservative judges? That’s a no brainer: of course they shouldn’t. The first tiny consequence I’ve seen? Marriott won’t donate to them.
What about the politicians who incited people to storm the Capitol? Egged them on? Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, written to exclude Confederate Civil War traitors, says that “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress … who … having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress … to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same[.]” Seems like it applies here, no?
What about those who have to clean up the mess? The urine on the floor? The feces on the wall? How about those staffers who had to hide, terrified, while the attack was happening, and now have PTSD from the attack? Three of them have since tested positive for Covid-19. What sort of consequences would bring them justice? I would suggest medical care, and bonuses for showing up to work in a war zone. What else?
You may be anxious to argue: What about the BLM RIOTS?? What about consequences for those?? And I would say: How did you miss it? There were consequences. Hundreds of arrests were made at protests throughout the summer and into the fall, many of them unwarranted. But really, the natural consequence of 250 years of police violence against Black and Brown people is an almost universal distrust of police, an eagerness to expose police violence and corruption, along with serious calls to defund, dismantle, and abolish the whole system of policing in our country.
While we’re here, guess what the natural consequences are for founding a nation while simultaneously committing to upholding slavery and racism? Answer: 250 years of ruling white supremacy, government sanctioned marginalization for massive numbers of people, and a painfully divided country.
If unity is what you’re truly after, you can’t skip the justice part. What should the consequences be for Black people who have had to endure a white supremacist government and citizenry for their whole lives? In the U.S., wealth is power. On average, white families hold nearly 10 times the wealth of Black families, due to 250 years of policies that limit and punish Black people. Reparations, with the goal of a wealth-power-balance, seems like the bare minimum.
Speaking of finances, what should be the consequences for people who don’t work during the pandemic in order to keep their fellow citizens safe? For people who now can’t pay rent or buy food? $2000/month for every month of staying home seems like it would go a long way to bringing justice.
What about essential workers who are required to risk their lives, every day, so we can buy groceries and keep our hospitals running? What kind of consequences would bring justice to them?
If unity is what you’re truly after, you can’t skip the justice part.
Let’s discuss what happens if we skip the consequences step yet again. Well, we end up with political leaders like Jim Jordan. Child athletes who were being sexually abused insist Jim Jordan knew the abuse was happening and did nothing about it. He has received no consequences for that inaction, so he continues on, as if he is above the law. And today, we saw a natural consequence of not requiring accountability of Jim Jordan. We, along with those former athletes, whose abuse Jordan chose to ignore so he could protect his own job, read news headlines about the very unworthy Jim Jordan receiving the Medal of Freedom.
Another example: A white male suicide bomber recently blew up a good chunk of Nashville. A woman had told the police he was building a bomb. The police did not look into the bomber, but they did give the woman a psych evaluation. So, we see that not stopping the Nashville bomber was a natural consequence of many millennia of not listening to women and/or assuming women are witches. We have never given women justice, and this skipped step continues to cause horrible problems.
If those who attacked the Capitol don’t face consequences, they will come back and try again. And it will be worse. We know they are already organizing to return. There are armed gatherings planned at all 50 state capitols. If the politicians who incited the attack don’t face consequences they will be emboldened in their deep corruption; they will lie and gaslight constituents about the election more, not less. If Trump doesn’t face consequences, he will continue sowing chaos and division, violence and death.
We may be able to picture a future where citizens come together, and it’s a beautiful picture, but that future is not possible until justice is achieved. Again: Justice = appropriate consequences for those who hurt people, and for those people who were hurt.
If you’re tempted to call for unity, stop. Prioritize justice and consequences before you attempt to wax poetic about coming together. Until the country sees justice, calls for unity and bridge building ring hollow, paint you as insincere and untrustworthy, and hurt far more than they help.
If you see someone in your own life calling for unity, consider redirecting the conversation. Try a variation of: Certainly unity is a worthy goal, but unity is not possible until justice is served. I know it’s tempting to focus on unity instead of justice, because unity is pretty to look at, and justice requires really hard conversations about consequences and accountability. But now is the time for those hard conversations. What should the consequences be for sedition? Should convicted traitors have their citizenship revoked? Why or why not?
Your turn. What are your thoughts on this topic? Are people you know calling for unity? Would they be open to a conversation about consequences?