Tuesday, December 10, 2019

(239) Let's Go From Polarization in America to Civility, Reconciliation, and Cooperation Before That Evil Destroys Our Country.........Let's Try a Christian Approach.


AMDG

An image symbolizing cooperation among diverse persons of Society.  Effective cooperation breeds synergy………i.e. the results of people working together is greater than when working separately; two heads are better than one due to the diversity of ideas and backgrounds.  In other words the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts.  
      Our country has been polarized in the past……..Slave States vs. Free States; the Union vs. the Confederacy (1861-65); Protestants vs. Catholics; Franklin Roosevelt was loved and he was hated as president (1932-1945).  Mexico went through it during the Cristero War (1926-29) and Spain went through a bitter Civil War (1936-39).

Americans were united during World War I and World War II.  However, today and ever since the 1960s America has been polarized…….Liberals vs. Conservatives, the Left vs. the Right, Pro-Abortion vs. Pro-Life, Secularists vs. Believers, Us vs. Them, and it’s getting worse.  We tend to assume that anyone who disagrees with our thinking or opposes us is evil.  A censure vote isn’t good enough even though that measure is more likely to be bipartisan; the Democratic controlled House of Representatives is out for blood……destroy the President and overthrow him by impeachment.  

       They can’t wait 11 months for the people to decide next November, fearing that they might lose the election.  History shows that throughout the world, severe polarization can lead to revolution, coups, civil war, military suppression, etc.  To everyone’s credit the process has been more or less orderly so far with no violence while there is some semblance of following the Constitution although there are big differences in its interpretation.


A pensive President Bill Clinton at the White House in 1998 during his impeachment ordeal.          

       Terrible Precedents. The Republican controlled House impeached President Bill Clinton in 1998, charging inappropriate sexual behavior with a White House, intern, Monica Lewinsky, perjury, and obstruction of justice.  In the Senate trial, Clinton was acquitted (see https://www.npr.org/2019/12/06/784721754/president-clinton-was-impeached-21-years-ago-some-parallels-run-deep).  

      It is almost certain that the same result will occur again as history repeats itself since the Republican Party has a majority in the Senate and a two thirds vote is required to impeach……..all that time and energy wasted while neglecting the country’s many problems.  The Republicans set a precedent in 1998 in their attempt to impeach President Clinton.  “What goes around comes around”.

Now there is danger of another bitter precedent for the future.  The next time the Republicans control the House and they can’t get along with a Democratic president, they will also resort to the political death penalty to overthrow a duly elected president…….impeachment, which should be only an extreme measure for crimes and treason to peacefully stop an abusive, tyrannical, and corrupt president.  The evidence must be so compelling that a guilty verdict is beyond a reasonable doubt.  In 1973 President Nixon resigned before being impeached because the movement was to a large extent bipartisan and the writing was on the wall……..he would lose.  

Today it’s strictly along party lines with no dissenter on either side, all of which indicates that the whole thing is political and looks terrible around the world.  Regardless of the result of the impeachment proceedings, bipartisanship and cooperation will be very difficult in the future.  Hopefully, at least the friendly but very competitive annual congressional baseball game between the opposite sides of the aisle will survive (see https://wtop.com/sports/2018/06/bayou-brothers-scalise-richmond-bridge-opposite-ends-of-congressional-baseball-game-spectrum/slide/1/).  Its objective is to help the congressmen to better know each other as human beings.

Even the rules and procedures for impeachment are at the whim of the majority party, including the choice of witnesses……..Democrats in the House and Republicans in the Senate.  Fairness is secondary.  Thus there should be permanent rules and procedures for impeachment to maximize fairness.  Impeachment should be compelling and bipartisan.     

Even the Catholic Church and Christianity in general is polarized…….Conservatives and Liberals……those who are faithful to Church teachings and the Cafeteria Catholics who pick and choose what they want to believe.  Among them are Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, Senator Dianne Feinstein, etc…….. “I’m personally opposed to abortion, but I cannot impose my views on others”……a grand cop-out and really capitulation.  

Historically, the Pope was the arbiter and had the final word on doctrine and its Biblical interpretation.  Today the Papacy Church teaching is often ignored by the Left.  The Liberals see nothing wrong with contraception, pre-marital sex, abortion, same sex marriage, gender change, etc.  Some conservatives, on the other hand, only give lip service or are indifferent to Church teaching on social justice, a living wage, helping the poor to help themselves, and equal opportunity for all.  Some are so anti-union that they do not understand the need for workers’ rights and labor-management cooperation.


When people are polarized in a nation, in a community, in the workplace, in an organization, or in an extended family, working together is difficult if not impossible.  Families and friendships are strained if not estranged.  The word “devil" means division; we cannot play into his hands.  How can we foment unity and cooperation, not division and conflict?  It begins with each one of us at any level of society. 


                           President Donald Trump at one of his political rallies.



       True, President Trump is a polarizing figure who is either loved or hated.  His constant tweets……calling unfavorable articles or editorials fake news; saying that the impeachment inquiry is a witch hunt and a hoax, etc.; ridiculing and attacking the character of the political opponent, writer, or commentator who criticizes him……..certainly are not conducive to harmony, bipartisanship, cooperation, compromise, and finding common ground as a starting point for amicable negotiation.    


It is customary for presidents and congressmen to put their assets and businesses into a trust to minimize any appearance of using his political power to favor his businesses.  That and making public his tax returns would be a big help.  There must be some transparency in the administration to build up a certain trust with the people unless national security is at stake.  

The President of the United States should be an example of integrity and foster an atmosphere of ethical operations even if not covered by a law.  He should insist that every official in his administration avoid even the appearance of impropriety because that sets the tone for the entire Executive Branch.  Asking the president of a foreign country to participate as a favor to order the investigation of Joe Biden, a political opponent, and his son, a board member of the Ukraine’s largest gas company is not appropriate.  Elections should be won or lost because of personal qualifications and the issues……..not character assassination or digging up dirt on one's opponent.  “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7).  We are all sinners; we all have weaknesses.  It’s better to lose ethically than to win by cheating because corruption is eventually exposed by the light.    

Of course, Hunter Biden (a lawyer, lobbyist, and co-founder of an international consulting firm) was appointed to the Board of Directors of Burisma Gas because his father was Vice President of the United States.  A fellow director from Poland confirmed that.  So what is there to investigate?  It’s all about influence.  

The Ukrainian government did not want to get involved.  Granting Trump’s wish to investigate would put their president Volodymyr Zelensky in a very awkward position because he would be accused of being an American puppet.  Furthermore, in January 2021 the President of the United States could be a Democrat.  It would be naive to believe that no one would ever know about Trump’s influence on the investigation.  Sooner or later it would come out as a scandal and Donald Trump paid dearly for taking that foolish risk, almost as bad as the Watergate break-in.  The impeachment is of his own making.  Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, and his other advisers should have known better and steer him away from trouble. 

       Until the secret “whistle blower” sparked a congressional investigation, the Ukrainians did not perceive any pressure, coercion, or quid pro quo.  Otherwise they would have brought it up as a concern with the Trump Administration.  Furthermore, according to a witness, President Trump said: “I want nothing from the Ukrainians” and was adamant about it.  Aid was temporarily suspended with many countries during a reexamination of foreign aid, which was resumed to the Ukraine. 

To accuse the Ukraine, not Russia, of interfering in the 2016 presidential election is so ludicrous and absurd; that country has neither a motive nor the resources to do it.  Believe our intelligence agencies which are excellent.  Visit the Ukraine as I did two years ago and you’ll see how poor it is. 


Civility.  Let’s begin with the premise that anyone who disagrees with our point of view or opposes us is not evil, but sincere, even if sincerely wrong and should be treated with courtesy, respect, and kindness.  It is imperative that both sides have a degree of humility and keep an open mind, knowing that their adversary may at times be right. Let’s put our Christianity into practice…….old fashioned Christian love in the sense that we do care about the good of our adversary and especially the common good.  

Let us realize that “we” and “they” look at an issue or situation with different perspectives, logic, and points of view…….”we” with rose colored glasses, “they” with brown colored glasses.  Seldom does either side have the whole truth; both may have part of the truth.  Thus we can learn from each other and come closer to the truth or best solution.  Respect your adversary’s conscience, however wrong or deformed.     
Ethical competition in business is good for society since the profit motive is a great incentive for innovation, new products, greater quality at a lower price, but it doesn’t have to be dog eat dog.  Ethical competition in political elections is democracy at its best…….promoting new ideas and healthy debate for the common good.

But it doesn’t have to be a quest for power, ego, and personal gain.  A politician worth his salt must have a sincere desire to serve the people.  It doesn’t matter who wins political points and receives the credit as long as the American people benefit…….the common good.  That’s what it’s all about.  And of course with elections and political fights…….be gracious in victory (no gloating) and dignified in defeat (no sulking or bad mouthing).



It is essential that our system of checks and balances to work.  That can only happen if each branch of government cooperates with each other.  Even if the current impeachment process today is a hoax, the Trump Administration should cooperate with the subpoenas that the congressional committees demand to prove the President’s innocence.  They are part of the system of checks and balances and must be preserved.  That gives transparency and breeds cooperation.  If an administration refuses to cooperate with a subpoena, then the Supreme Court should be the final arbiter. Of course, classified documents should be withheld and to some extent executive privilege regarding confidential internal deliberations and advice. 


The American people deserve to know the truth.   Let the chips fall where they may.  Another bad precedent has been set for future administrations to stonewall any congressional subpoena.  This gives the impression that the administration is hiding something.  Of course, classified documents should be withheld.     

The Press and the Media.  Let’s assume that a journalist does not consciously write fake news.  True, bias creeps in with almost every writer.  Let’s get back to Journalism 101.  Every journalist must aspire to be objective as humanly possible.  News reporting should be completely independent of the reporter’s opinion…….just the facts, quoting observers on the scene, and including opposing points of view.  Opinions belong on the editorial page.  The author of investigative reporting must be predisposed to change his/her opinion or point of view if the facts and the evidence warrant it.  

     

 Idealistic?  The ideal may be never be attained, but it gives direction. Only a few steps in that direction is progress.  


There was a time when senators would address each other with respect, referring to a colleague as “the distinguished senator from Ohio”.  Liberals and Conservatives, Republicans and Democrats had heated debates between opposing points of view, but in the end they could be friends………like true sportsmanship.


































Conservative Republican President Ronald Reagan and liberal Democratic Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill in 1982.  They showed that liberals and conservatives can work together and be civil without tearing each apart.  It is possible for enemies to work together when the common good demands.

After his election in 1980, the conservative Republican President Ronald Reagan pursued his agenda of tax cuts, a military buildup, and deregulation, all of which the liberal Democratic Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill had done everything he could to resist as a bitter political enemy of the President.  With the budget deficit rising and the markets getting concerned about Washington’s solvency, the Republican and the Democrat needed each other’s help. The White House wanted to cut domestic spending, including Social Security. O’Neill wanted to safeguard entitlement programs and reverse some of Reagan’s tax cuts that he considered as benefiting the rich.  

      The two sides kept at it for four months.  They announced an agreement that formed the basis of the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982, which increased tax revenues by about one per cent of G.D.P. Reagan and O’Neill also set up a bipartisan commission on Social Security, and the following year they both endorsed a set of reforms that put the finances of the public retirement system on a firmer footing. However, the agreement delayed a cost-of-living adjustment and raised the retirement age. It also increased contributions and cut benefits for future retirees.  See https://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/can-donald-trump-learn-from-ronald-reagan-and-tip-oneill.  Yes it is possible for enemies to work together when the common good demands it.

In my own personal life I have two dear friends, Fred and Kay Turk.  We worked together in Peru as lay missionaries. We all aspired to serve others.  In my opinion they’re wild eyed liberals.  We are on opposite poles in politics as well as on Church renewal.  We would debate into the wee hours; yet remain friends.  They even made me the godfather of Dan, their first born son, whom I visit every year when in Washington for the March For Life.  

  
Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2019-20.


When all of this national turmoil of this year and last is over, resentments and bitterness will remain.  Will we be able to forgive past insults and injuries and work together?  Can’t we understand that both parties so often have similar goals, but different paths to reach them?........more and better jobs, prosperity for all, adequate and affordable medical care for all, equal opportunity, freedom, national security, etc.   Then common ground is possible on at least some issues!  And when there is cooperation on common ground, why not share the credit and thank the opposition for their help?
 
Nancy Pelosi, the current Speaker of the House of Representatives and leader of the impeachment movement against President Trump, said to a reporter accusing her of hating him: “I pray for the President every day”.  That’s a great start……..opposing forces praying for each other.  That would give great hope.  Let’s pray for our Country and for each other.  After all, for God, anything is possible.
Take the high road. Let us conclude with the words of Abraham Lincoln and Christ Himself.  After a bloody polarizing Civil War President Lincoln sought reconciliation during his inaugural address on March 4, 1865 before the end of the Civil War: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
   
Christ Himself said: “You have heard that it has been said, You shalt love thy neighbor, and hate your enemy.  But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven……” (Matthew 5:43-45).

Forgive them; that will teach them a lesson.  “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you.” (Matthew 6:14).  Our Lord even forgave his persecutors from the cross:  "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34).  For a large selection of Bible verses on forgiveness, go to https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Forgiving-Others-Who-Hurt-You.


If necessary: “but whoever slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:38-40).  That is, avoid revenge for harm done that invites more bitterness and escalation.

St. Peter and St. Paul reinforced what their master had said.  “Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9).

Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all.  If possible, on your part, live at peace with all.  Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for God's wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."  Rather, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.’  Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21).

If Donald J. Trump would take the high road and put those words into practice, Republicans and Democrats and all of America would be on the right path to reconciliation and he could go down in history as one of America’s greater presidents.  His example would have a tremendous impact and win the support of independents.  


May our president have the humility to learn from all of this and grow in wisdom.  To a large extent, the presidency involves on the job training.  No candidate is adequately prepared for the tremendous responsibilities of the presidency.  May Donald Trump learn that his power is limited and cannot do it alone.  He needs all the help he can get, including help from the opposition and especially personal prayer over his decisions.  Pray for our president now and whoever he or she may be in the future.

References

1.      Barber, Michael and McCarty, Nolan. “Causes and Consequences of Polarization”

2.      McGowan, A. M. “Encouraging Bipartisanship: Polarization and Civility as Rhetorical Tools for Ameliorating the U.S. Senate’s Partisan Environment”. University of Southern Mississippi. May 8, 2015 https://aquila.usm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1065&context=dissertations

3.       Movius, Hal. “How Best to Restore Civility?” CBI, May 4, 2011.


4.      Gibson, Lydialyle. “Can America’s Tattered Civic Life Be Repaired?” Harvard Magazine, December 4, 2019.  https://harvardmagazine.com/2019/12/institute-of-politics-discussion-on-reconciliation-in-american-public-life

National Institute for Civil Discourse.  University of Arizona. https://nicd.arizona.edu/


1 comment:

  1. Paul with due respect,These 2 impeachments were different. Clinton was charged with a crimes (perjury at 10 different times). Pres. Trump there was no Crime or misdemeanor. Fabricated and gossip.The only Fact witness Amb.Sonlin, stated "No quit pro Quo" READ THE TRANSCRIPT!
    Clinton, House was bipartisan majority to impeach(this is when Dems new difference between right and wrong). Pres Trump House voted bipartisan NOT to impeach!
    Just because you quote liberals in your Ref. does not make you objective or fair. I may not be as educated as you but I sure know right from wrong. As fare as your this is an opinion peace.Your opinion not facts.It is your right to give this opinion no mater how much prevarication. I hope you did not watched this unfold on TV and still came to this conclusion? I think as a Catholic we need to stand up for what is right and just! Call out Evil where ever it is.even in our church. We are divided cause we are at War with the devil!
    The only thing this President has done is Protect ALL AMERICANS,OUR CONSTITUTION AND OUR FREEDOMS. Especially the UNBORN. THE 1ST PRESIDENT IN MY LIFE TIME TO MAKE A PROMISES AND KEEP THEM! That scares the hell out of DNC,Union leaders,and Swamp dwellers!

    Former DNC central committee person, past union officer and PFN.

    ReplyDelete