Even I was surprised when I heard that Elijah Cummings and Mark Meadows were good friends. In our polarized times, it seems impossible that such a relationship could exist. A black democrat and a white republican seem to have every reason these days to hate and demonize one another, and yet they were friends.
Left and right, black and white, rich and poor, intelligent and simple, we are all Americans. In leaving the Republican Party when Donald Trump received the nomination, some were puzzled or critical of my decision. My rationale for leaving the party was that I couldn’t be a part of an organization whose leader I disagreed with so fundamentally. If I did, I was worried about where that would lead. I had already seen my friends become more rigid and angry since Trump’s rise. Would I change in those ways as well if I decided to support Trump? When you choose a leader you disagree fundamentally with, you begin to tolerate and justify that leader. Once you compromise those principles, you’ve crossed a line that is very difficult to come back from.
In the past two and a half years, I have felt increasingly alone in my political beliefs. Wandering in this ideological wasteland of isolation has been good for me, in the end. I realize what my core political identity is now. I am an American. I used to be a Republican, but in shedding that label, I have begun to see people instead of parties. In seeing the different shades and hues of ideology in our political landscape, I’ve begun to see that like light and darkness need one another in a good drawing, the political left needs the political right. And the political right needs the political left.
The left needs a strong right that holds traditional values sacrosanct; that insists that sometimes war is right and necessary, even if it comes with great sacrifice; that reminds us that the government is not the solution to every societal problem; that kindles the belief that America is special and has a duty to lead the world in spreading freedom.
The right needs a strong left that advocates for minorities, reveals corruption, draws our eye to injustice, and pulls us back from excessive war and foreign entanglements. We need a left that reminds us that scientific advancement and research needs to inform our values which may need to be adjusted with changing times.
Like a stroke that paralyzes half of a body, the right side of our nation is not functioning. Trumpism has infected the political right and the ship of state is in danger of capsizing. This has put additional pressure onto the political left which has had to compensate. Adam Schiff, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, is left to defend the F.B.I. and their investigations. Nancy Pelosi must school the President on the necessity of a U.S. presence in the Middle East. I have been impressed with the way in which these two have adapted to their new roles. A remarkable picture of Nancy Pelosi standing while pointing an indicting finger at the President as she seems to say, “With you, all roads lead to Putin!” struck me with power when I saw it yesterday. Who would have thought a Democrat would ever say such a thing to a Republican President? Yet here we are.
Like Nancy Pelosi, Elijah Cummings was a Democratic leader I have come to admire and appreciate in these turbulent times. I am truly sorry he is gone, not just because he was a prominent person and he was loved, but because I fear that he may be one of a dying breed. I hope that the up and coming politicians like Devin Nunes and Alexandra Occasio-Cortez can learn to find common ground like those before them have done. I hope that the transactional politics void of bipartisanship and common values will be short-lived. If not, I greatly fear for the survival of our Republic.
Trump’s abusive behavior toward Nancy Pelosi, Mitt Romney, Jeff Flake, Adam Schiff, former Ambassador Yovanovich, John McCain, Andrew McCabe, and all those Americans who have respectfully disagreed with him and done their duty as Americans in defense of the constitution should be truly alarming to all of us regardless of party. If he will do this to them, he will do it to you. He cannot be trusted with power. As we prepare for another Presidential election in 2020, let us consider carefully as Americans who we should vote for. Let us look at more than party when we cast our ballots. We have seen that power in the hands of a dishonest and abusive person leads to division and weakness of America on the domestic and world stage.
For my friends on the left, consider your tone. Is it self-righteous? Is it condescending? Do you listen to understand or are you more concerned about proving you are right? Do you generalize large groups of people unfairly based on race and gender? If after doing some introspection, those answers are affirmative, consider making a change. It will be tempting to take political advantage of the weakness of the right and nominate someone who is rigid and inflexible, but such a course will only lead to a bigger backlash with more division. The President will viciously attack whomever you choose to nominate, but if you choose someone whom good faith conservatives see as not hostile to them, they will be more easily persuaded to change course for the good of the country.
For my friends on the right, use your critical thinking. You know there isn’t a deep state out to get Trump. That narrative is full of holes. Stop letting this man feed you these lies. The F.B.I. and C.I.A. are not full of partisan hacks, they are patriotic Americans doing their best to keep us safe and free. The Democratic Party is not full of demonic extremists ready to take your freedoms. They are our friends and countrymen and they are concerned about the behavior of Trump and the people who support and defend his behavior. Trump’s obsession with winning at any cost while abandoning basic ethical standards is shameful and unAmerican. It isn’t too late to do the right thing and nominate someone else for 2020.
As I quietly mourn the loss of a great man in Congress today, I hope my words do some good to my suffering country. My heart grieves for our divided condition. I pray that the hearts of my friends and neighbors will be softened toward their political adversaries; that divisive and judgmental rhetoric might give way to trust, fellowship, and honest dialogue. We are stronger and better when we are united, one nation under God.