How to live with your enemy - Keith Roulston editorial
Now that the counting of ballots in the U.S. presidential election is finally complete, President-elect Joe Biden faces the almost impossible task of repairing a country nearly torn apart by its support or opposition to his predecessor, Donald J. Trump.
Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris, will come to power with the reality that nearly half of Americans voted for Trump, not them. A substantial minority of Trump supporters will carry forever the conviction that Biden’s victory is illegitimate.
How do Biden and Harris even begin to counteract this belief? Truth won’t change the minds of Trump diehards. There’s only one version of “the truth” they believe: what comes from Donald Trump’s mouth. It doesn’t matter if international observers of the election, state officials and the media found the voting and counting properly conducted, that all means nothing if Trump insists, without proof, that there has been widespread fraud.
As of Monday morning, there has been no sign of the pro-Trump violence many feared when he told white-supremacist militias to “Stand back and stand by”. Still, it’s a long time until Jan. 20 and the inauguration of President Biden, and Trump has demonstrated many times that almost nothing is unthinkable.
Perhaps we should be grateful for Trump’s belief that the courts will confirm his claims of cheating. Republican Party lawyers have fanned out across the country, filing dozens of lawsuits to challenge the validity of rules and events that took place during the election. In one case they argued that a mailed-in ballot should be rejected if the voter used a Sharpie marker to indicate his choice instead of a pencil.
But as these interminable court challenges go forward –and most legal experts predict they will be rejected – perhaps the passion of Trump’s supporters will lose its edge. On the other hand, they may add judges to the list of elites out to get their hero.
Still, all of these delays won’t change the challenge to heal a fractured nation that faces Biden and Harris. Many suggest their country has descended into tribalism, where people side with the people who share their beliefs while ignoring those who think the opposite.
There are hopeful illustrations of healing from the past. The U.S. has managed to survive 150 years since its vicious Civil War ended. There were horrible “solutions” as the northern states turned a blind eye to the continued abuse of former slaves. The tensions bubbled up again during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, when Blacks, supported by white activists, stood up against state-sponsored efforts to keep Black men and women “in their place”.
Today there are Black state governors and senators but the inter-race tensions have never completely healed. Ironically, the election of Barack Obama as the first Black president, seems to have been the final straw for many white supremacists, spurring them to organize.
Here in Canada, we’ve certainly faced what seemed to be hopeless canyons of misunderstanding. We’re still far from righting the wrongs to the Indigenous people perpetrated by the European occupation of North America. It seems solving the complexities of the issue on a community-by-community basis will take a long time, even given goodwill on both sides.
Those European visitors brought old battles with them. The drive for Irish independence led to the Fenian movement and invasions across the U.S. border from raiders seeking to bring down Canada’s new political union. This hatred reached its zenith when Father of Confederation D’Arcy McGee was assassinated on April 7, 1868, by a Fenian supporter avenging McGee’s opposition to violence.
But as we mark Remembrance Day this week, it’s also important to realize the importance of forgetfulness. Defeating Germany and Japan cost more than 45,000 Canadian lives, so it wouldn’t be surprising if resentment of these countries remained for several lifetimes. But the allies (led by the U.S.) realized it was more important to turn the other cheek than to seek revenge, and today Germany and Japan are allies, not enemies.
Now that Biden will be president, there will be Democrats who seek revenge for the underhandedness of Trump and his Republican friends. Thankfully the president-elect is sending a different message.
Ironically, Biden was probably the second choice of most Democrats back during last spring’s state primary elections. Grudgingly many supported him because they feared more exciting candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders might frighten off voters. Now, Biden’s core values of decency and honesty seem to be just what his country needs to take on its enormous challenges of reconciliation.