“I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free…I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.” —Abraham Lincoln
Lincoln spoke these lines in acceptance of the nomination for the U.S. Senate some 162 years ago this month. This was no call for unity. This was not about making peace or seeking reconciliation. This was a rare moment of moral clarity when Lincoln understood the matter before him. It is the matter still before us. At present Lincoln’s “Republican Principles” are at best an oxymoron. At worst, right before our eyes.
We continue living, some 162 years later, with the consequences of our national failure to practice equality and equal justice under the law. Actions and policies must follow but the reckoning is as much a matter of hearts and minds. Lincoln describes more than our sin of national origin and the vile principles of human degradation on which it was based. He tells us that it must be rooted out, brought plainly into the light of day for all to see, admitted, addressed, and acted upon.
Lincoln deserves no apologetics for his own failures but what he understood here was that one does not compromise over matters that can only be deemed human iniquity, barbarity, plain wrong. We are either a nation of equality for all or we are a house divided that must not stand. There are times when we must decide for decency and face the deeply discomforting truths we have likely not realized implicate us too in the injustices.
White America has to accept more than its collective historical responsibilities for complicities. It has to decide with whom we stand and what we really stand for. Or we will carry on investing in ethical bankruptcy and we will at last ruin this great experiment.
Trump provides at the very least, just such an example of what happens when our moral deficits and malignancies of character are so plainly revealed. Those who comply, agree, or race to the elevator to avoid the reporters’ questions, those who take his side are on the other side of our argument. I can offer them no more solace than to say, you can change, you can evolve and you can come to realize that as you continue to support his leadership your own actions are morally corrupt and your character is deficient.
If you are a Trump supporting Republican, you are an essential part of the problem now. There is no other room to occupy in this divided house. Our house can divide over the particulars of policies but the actions that will must be taken to survive as a nation demand a reckoning.
I do not mean to suggest that as individuals we are all as feckless in our malignancies as Trump. But America elected Trump and he told us who he was. He is the president for all Americans; our disavowals and denials are trivial. What we now see hopefully are these two Americas.
The one America I dream permits dissent, even vile speech, and it tolerates more than is right. But it does not tolerate inequality and it will act to root it out and create a more just society, despite those who would abuse our freedoms. That is our public responsibility: to tear down the house built on inequality and rebuild with the rubble that we will need as a reminder, so that we never forget or even forgive our past. We progress and include the whole story to become better for it. We tell ourselves the truth because we can only stand together if we can stand the truth.
The America that remains for Trump is not one that must be allowed to endure. It must be defeated and it must be changed. We are a house divided and while no one can be glad for that, we can be determined that our division does not endure. We are no longer allowed another bypass, another bit of fakery for the sake of profit, stolen labor, and human degradation. I do not seek another reconciliation built on the foundations of hypocrisy.
Do we mean it now? At last? We are not unified nor will we achieve some meaningful compromise. We will become a nation imperfectly in pursuit of freedom and justice for _all_ or we will continue the failures that Lincoln understood are at the core of our moral corruption. We must have a free and fair election and we must use the corrupt institutions we have to try to survive this decisive moment. I welcome the opportunity to see what America stands for because only then can we begin the process of a more perfect union.