The calls for unity on American soil as the Biden Administration begins would be welcomed from those that fueled divisions over the last four years if not for their lack of self awareness.
History books will topline the call for the end of an “uncivil war” from President Joe Biden’s inauguration speech, framed by the passage. “To overcome these challenges—restore the soul and to secure the future of America— requires more than words. It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy: Unity.”
We note that the call for “unity” from the President is much different from the House Republicans who continuously used it as a reason to not proceed with the second impeachment of President Donald Trump five days earlier.
Those calls from the extreme right still ring hollow, especially by those who sowed the seeds of discord by voting against the certification of the Presidential election mere hours after a murderous mob of Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol.
For us, we look at the words from those in Charlottesville, VA, the city where a march by right-wing extremists spurred President Biden to run, as a guidepost in the road to bring the country and lawmakers together.
White supremacists, self-avowed neo-Nazis and right-wing militias marched in a Unite the Right rally in 2017 in Charlottesville, which President Trump famously characterized afterwards as having “good people on both sides.” Days of white supremacists violently clashing with counter protesters ensued, including a driver purposely driving into a gathering that would kill Heather Heyer.
The message today from those in Charlottesville who fought the extremists, including from Keyer’s mother, to President Biden is simple: There is no unity without justice.
“Unity is not uniformity, and unity is not without accountability,” added The Rev. Phil Woodson, the associate pastor at First United Methodist Church in Charlottesville. “It’s really hard to be unified with people if you don’t have a common understanding of truth and a common understanding of justice. Otherwise, we’re speaking completely different languages.”
There is no what aboutisms here. The Republican party, especially those in leadership that promoted and continue to practice misinformation of what happened over the last four years, should not have a seat at the table until they take responsibility for their actions.
Our political system is built on the ideal of debate, each trying to build a majority by arguing the facts in good faith. Dissent of the minority is instrumental in our democracy. Finding common ground always produces better results to our problems.
President Biden was right when he said, “This is a great nation and we are a good people” in his Inauguration speech. This is not a condemnation of everyone proud to call themselves Republicans. But now is the time for GOP centrists to disavow the extremists in their party and make their message the ones their fellow Americans hear again.