In light of the failed American coup on January 6, 2021, a number of Republicans have stepped to the mic and asked us to “forgive and forget,” to “move forward and heal this nation.”
They almost invariably use this forgive-and-forget phrase whenever they want to move the conversation away from accountability, or punishment from wrongs they have committed.
It is certainly no coincidence that they take refuge in the religious underpinnings of their political base, who, typically, are from the South and whose evangelical pastors frequently cite Matthew 6:14 and Ephesians 4:32 as Biblical sources for the forgiveness refrain. The Republicans indulge this forgiveness concept in direct proportion to the wrongs they have perpetrated.
Bribery, sexual infidelity, and many other forms of personal corruption are usually the triggering events that prompt the calls to “move on and heal,” although, interestingly enough, these invocations are not usually brought about by public confession; they arise after a scandal is publicized and the “accountability axe” is about to drop.
Republicans in many statehouses, as well as in Congress, during the last 40 years have engaged in abominable social, economic and political practices: voter suppression; enacting racist laws; anti-immigration; religious intolerance; misogyny; tax cuts for the wealthy; depriving people of economic support during times of trouble; failure to provide health care coverage for millions of people, notwithstanding the passage of a limited form of “Obamacare.” The list goes on and on.
There is much talk about moving on so that the country can heal. This notion does great violence to the injustices that Republicans have imposed on the less-fortunate, less-powerful in society. There is great wisdom and powerful truth in the maxim from Danish philosopher Soren Kirkegaard: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
The meaning of this phrase is straightforward: when a wrong has been done, justice requires that it be acknowledged; that an apology be given; that an offer is made to make up for the harm; and an express determination not to repeat the offense. This is why it is vital and long-overdue for America to institute a national “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” to launch deep, heartfelt conversations about our racist history; about the economic injustices that exist in our society; and the troubled relationships between men and women that have blinded us to the valuable contributions both genders can make in uplifting society.
But such a TRC cannot launch and be effective unless we eliminate the fraudulent philosophies underlying so much of Republicanism. There is an increasing amount of talk these days about going through a massive revision of the principles of the Republican Party. Its racist, bigoted, xenophobic tendencies must be rooted out, and a commitment to the core principle that supposedly governs America (e pluribus unum, “out of many, one”) must be a litmus test of those in the New Republican Party.
If a genuine commitment is made to creating “the rising tide that lifts all ships,” then the New Republican Party can, in point of fact, become the “loyal opposition” that may counterbalance some of the more extreme components of the Democratic Party’s positions. But, before the formation of a formal New Republican Party, this country must go through the painful but necessary process of convening a TRC and enacting the most reasonable aspects of its recommendations, so that we do not have a resurgence of the harmful attitudes and destructive tendencies that have plagued America for hundreds of years.
Once we go through the processes envisioned in a TRC, we can begin to have a democracy worth talking about.