You know the phrase "cutting off your nose to spite your face" means? It's kind of a warning that points to an action that would damage the actor as much as or more than the object of the anger. The expression may have come into being when nuns in Britain would disfigure themselves to turn off Viking raisers thereby preserving their chastity. It usually indicates self-destructive action... like closing down a public swimming pool for a whole town because integration would mean black families could use the pool as well as white families. That's something the brilliant former Demos president Heather McGhee discussed with Jim Lardner this week in a podcast about a quest for unity or, in their words, solidarity. More important than public swimming pools, is a look at how demonization of blacks has led to whites opposing public health insurance, not because their families don't need it, but because they would rather go without than see black families get it to. That's integral to the American story.
Yesterday, John Pavlovitz published an essay, The Unity America Doesn’t Need that discusses how the Right is now weaponizing the word unity and using it to avoid accountability, sidestep justice, disregard equity, and ignore criminality, there is a unity that decent Americans do not need:
Decent Americans don’t need unity with willful liars.
Decent Americans don’t need unity with domestic terrorists.
Decent Americans don’t need unity with people disconnected from reality. (Think QAnon)
Decent Americans don’t need unity with unrepentant racists.
"Watching the same people," wrote Pavlovitz, "who violently objected to athletes of color kneeling silently before a football game, or to disparate Americans marching to affirm the values of black lives, or to diverse Americans standing together to condemn the assassinations by police of human beings of color-- now so casually brush off or completely ignore the violent white mobs at the Capitol has been grief-worthy. These phony ANTIFA false equivalencies and Black Lives Matter whataboutisms, illustrate how deeply embedded into so many people’s psyches racial prejudice is, and this moment must be a time when we confront it and do not shy away from it under the pretense of ceremonial unity. Proud Boys don’t deserve unity. Boogaloo Boys don’t deserve unity. Klansmen without robes and hoods don’t. Black lives merit our passionate disunity with such people."
While lawmakers like Josh Hawley, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, and Mo Brooks, who are heavily implicated in the Capitol attack still hold their seats of undeserved power—unity is impossible.
While politicians like Ted Cruz, Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan, and Matt Gaetz continue to double down on the knowing lie of a stolen election-- there can be no unity.
While Republicans compare protests demanding that black lives not be made expendable, with an act of white terrorism intending to overthrow the Government-- unity will not be forthcoming.
America needs people to step across lines of political and religious affiliation to craft a way forward in consequential matters right now, and I want to be one of those people.
...We desperately need to unite around our shared and interdependent humanity.
Yet those needs do not supersede the elemental virtues of honesty, fairness, equity, decency and they do not override the Constitution.
The call for unity cannot entail abandoning the very heart of this nation’s laws and the solid bedrock of objective truth or the intrinsic value of all human beings.
Unity that requires us to abide terrorism or perpetuate inequity or ratify violence, isn’t unity, it’s coddling evil.
Unity between compassionate, truthful, human beings burdened to a collaborative effort at restoring our nation is essential.
Unity with unrepentant darkness is not.
America and the people who call it home or dream of calling it home, deserve better.
Personally, I can't think of any policy which would see Mitt Romney and me on the same side. But yesterday at on on-line forum for the Economic Club of Chicago, "Governing From the Middle," he talked about "unity" in a way that makes a good deal more sense than we're hearing from other Republicans. He acknowledged that Trump will never admit that he lost a fair election, but he suggested that every elected Republican ought to be telling voters that that is precisely what happened, as a step toward bringing the country together. "You have many of the Trump supporters in elected office, senators, congresspeople, governors, continuing to say the same thing, that the election was stolen" He said that Trump "had a chance to take their message to the courts, the courts laughed them out of court. I’ve seen no evidence that suggests that there was widespread voter fraud." Romney thinks it is imperative for Republican elected officials to go on Fox and say, "You know what, I was a big Trump supporter, I was really pulling for Donald Trump, but he lost fair and square... I believe that [ an impeachment trial] is an element of unity, which I look forward to having resolved so that we can move on."