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Taking Pound Of Flesh Is Not Answer To Heal Nation

The evening of Jan. 6 could have been a point in time to begin mending our divided nation.

That hasn’t happened – and more disappointingly, it would appear our country is even more divided than it was before last week’s storming of the U.S. Capitol building.

Some Democrats want to exact their pound of flesh in the wake of the Capitol riot, pushing with breakneck speed toward a second impeachment of President Donald Trump. Most people readily admit the president bears fault for inflaming an already incendiary situation with his words and rhetoric before the Capitol riot, but that isn’t enough for Congressional Democrats and their supporters. A repudiation of the president’s behavior last week is needed. That has happened. It is a miniscule percentage of people who think the president bears no fault in last week’s incident, but that is not what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would have the nation believe. There are alternatives under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution that would preclude Trump from serving a second term as president, and one would think a low-key action would allow Democrats to achieve their prescribed aim while avoiding a weeks-long trial in the U.S. Senate that ends up reigniting our nation’s inflamed passions. That’s exactly what the country doesn’t need. A second impeachment trial is not what the country needs to begin healing itself.

The rush to impeach has left the very people who felt marginalized enough to result in Trump’s election in 2016 feeling even more marginalized over the past week. Elected officials who took steps last week to build bridges, like Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, find themselves instead treading water in a stormy, angry ocean of public sentiment in which a third of their constituents criticize them for not breaking with Trump sooner, another third criticize them for abandoning Trump in the first place and a silent third sit on the sidelines afraid to say anything.

If we are to find a common ground, we would be wise to heed the words written by George Washington, who seemed to be peering some 220 years into the future when he wrote, in his farewell address, “The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty. Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight,) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.”

We are in the midst of a period of national soul searching as citizens come to grips with what they’ve seen not just in the last week, but really since the 1960s. Our nation has long been considered the great melting pot — but right now, our nation seems to be melting down rather than melting together. As Washington feared, factions simply take turns dominating the other, taking their pound of flesh for past perceived wrongs and a permanent state of despotism depending on which side of the debate one chooses to believe.

That is a dangerous ground upon which our nation treads, and we will keep walking this dangerous path until one side or the other puts its knives away.

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