Donald John Trump has been impeached by the United States House of Representatives and faces a trial in the U.S. Senate early in this new year. The chances of Trump being convicted in the Republican-controlled Senate are about one in a bazillion, but the indelible stain of being one of only three U.S. Presidents impeached — Andrew Johnson in 1868, Bill Clinton in 1998 and now Trump in 2019 — will remain forever both as part of his legacy and our national history. No president has ever been removed from office by a vote of the Senate.
Millions of Americans hope Trump is elected to a second term, and millions want him out right this minute. Love him or loathe him, Trump will eventually be gone one way or another, whether through impeachment, by losing the 2020 election or at the end of a second term. Then comes the really hard part. We Americans, both Trump supporters and Trump revilers, must find a way beyond this divisive president. We must find a way to heal our divisions — or at least move beyond them — and chart a course as one nation again.
Trump has divided Americans like no other president, at least during my lifetime, with divisions as pronounced as they were in 1861 at the beginning of the Civil War, according to political analysts. Family, friends and colleagues have, as we say in the South, fallen out over this president. And while there have been no divorces in the extended Dickson clan over Trump, there has certainly been some tiptoeing around about him or no conversations at all about the elephant in the middle of the room. The never-Trumpers tread gingerly around the relatives who attend Trump rallies. For all sorts of reasons — Trump’s constant lying, his business practices, his strident political positions, his attitude toward women, his caustic, vindictive and often terrifying personality, his bullying of all sorts of people including immigrants, journalists and Republican members of Congress —leave some of us saying that is “just Trump” and others saying he is deeply unhinged. Wherever one falls on that spectrum, virtually no one is neutral about Trump.
Trump’s recovery will be an uphill climb, whenever it takes place, even though it is on the minds of many. Last summer, The Washington Post reviewed two books on the situation, one leftist and one rightest, both suggesting the situation may get worse before it gets better. The current issue of The Atlantic magazine’s lead story is “How to Stop a Civil War,” including articles like “How America Ends,” “What Would Mister Rogers Do” and “Can This Marriage Be Saved?”
To paraphrase Walt Kelly in the “Pogo” comic strip, we have seen the enemy and at the end of the day, it is not Trump. It is us, the American people. We have to heal ourselves and our own relationships by stepping back and relearning how to see our fellow Americans not as “The Other,” but as citizens who have had different life experiences and who hold different views. In our current world of multiple and fragmented information sources, Trump and Fox News or Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and MSNBC saying something does not make it true. We must evaluate their assertions on our own. We must understand that some Americans feel unheard and disenfranchised and that we fail to address their concerns at our peril, something that is true all over the world.
In other words, we must learn all over again how to think for ourselves.
It is a tall order, but as both a new year and a new decade get underway, healing and understanding should be on everyone’s lists of resolutions. The danger of not doing so is real and threatens us and our democracy like nothing since the Civil War.
History tells us that democracies are fragile, and it is clear that ours is in desperate need of nurturing from all sides.