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National Reconciliation Needed

OpEd – Scott Burman discusses the future role of America’s leadership. 

LIBN, January 15 – 20, 2021

Last week the United States Capitol was violated in a most shocking manner, how- ever these horrific acts may provide only a hint of the growing political anger that lies just beneath the surface of our nation’s social fabric.

The recent assault within the halls of Congress quickly reminded historians of the near-death beating of anti-slavery Sen. Charles Sumner, when a Southern member of the House of Representatives entered the Senate Chamber in 1856 and savagely beat the senator to unconsciousness with a silver handled walking stick. It was a chilling omen of the Civil War that would ensue just several short years later. Are we in real danger of similarly following a path which harmfully splinters our nation today?

As dubious forces empowered by the superhighway of social media continue to push America to opposite political extremes, we are at real crossroads. This not only threatens the moderate center but also jeopardizes our very ability to conduct the rational, civil, and peaceful discourse required to sort out our differences. Under a Biden administration, the populist anger that propelled Trump’s political ascent needs to be understood and considered as both real and relevant. That is, if the incoming president is truly sincere in his stated desire to “bring the country together.”

It is not melodramatic to suggest that we are at a tipping point in our nation’s future. There are members of Congress who found themselves hustled out of the chamber by protective services and many are now seeking that the president be impeached, yet again. That may satisfy their desire for retribution, but it will not jump start the process of rational dialogue, prudently required to right our ship.

Two years before Lee’s surrender was accepted by Grant at the Appomattox Court House in 1865, President Lincoln issued a Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction that called for a full pardon for all who were engaged in open rebellion against the United States, only with exception of the highest-ranking Confederate officials and their military leaders. At a time when Blue and Grey troops were still confronting each other in bloody warfare, this was an enormous act of political courage, strategic vision, and a bipartisan gesture to start the process of mending our national wounds. Tragically, he did not live long enough to enact his strategy, a vision tremendously insightful for Americans today.

In the weeks to come both Republicans and Democrats can waste precious time seeking partisan advantage in the wake of the Capitol Hill assault, serving their politics but not serving our nation’s need for healing. While prosecuting those who violated our Capitol, we need to appreciate that there are malignant regimes around the globe who see America’s historic turmoil as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to advance their own strategic agenda at our expense.

We live in a dangerous world, now made more so because our allies and enemies see an America rifted by violent divisions taking place within our own house. We need to recognize what Lincoln saw, that “a house di- vided against itself cannot stand.” At a time of enormous political division, when our legitimate differences have been captured by felons and political extremists, when ominous forces that threaten our democracy both here and abroad feel empowered, we need America’s leadership to insist on reconciliation, honest dialogue, and renewed national purpose. And we need to do so as if our nation’s future depends upon it.

Because it does.