There are calls upon calls for showing ‘empathy’ to Trump supporters, but you know what is entirely missing? Calls for an apology from them.
Those who seek reconciliation can begin by demanding that the Trumpists acknowledge the harm they have done to the rest of us, and apologize. That goes most of all for Joe Biden, the president-elect, foremost among those asking for ‘healing’. Fine. If he wants healing then he must demand, and receive, a public apology from all who worked for Trump in a political capacity, and forbid anybody who refuses any further role in government.
Stop asking sane people to lovingly accept those who cheered on a man who has done grave and permanent damage to this world. It’s outrageous that half the country should be asked to exhibit mercy while the other half is permitted to wallow in its criminality and ignorance.
In my own case this latter group includes many once-dear family members. People I loved all my life, and I’m old. For twenty years the left told Republicans what was going to happen (if the Supreme Court allowed George W. Bush to steal the presidency, if the United States went to war in Iraq, if the impending climate catastrophe were ignored, if Donald Trump should be elected). Unfortunately, everything my leftist cousin and I told our family would happen came to pass, a drama that has played out in millions of families across the United States, for twenty years. It’s not on us to extend the olive branch; it’s on them to be ashamed of themselves. If they are not deeply sorry, and deeply, everlastingly ashamed, if they can’t acknowledge and regret the mess they’ve made, I have no desire for reconciliation. And it is, it’s really, really sad.
Where is the evidence that Trump supporters wish to ‘reconcile’ with Democrats? Where are the calls for them ‘reach out’ to the left?
The word ‘shame’ itself is, mystifyingly, lacking from the public discourse in this terrible moment.
Chris Hayes, the MSNBC anchor who started yelling about the potential gravity of Covid-19 back in March, has now resorted to pounding on his desk in disbelief. Everything that he said would happen, has happened. As of yesterday nearly a quarter of a million Americans have died of Covid-19. Those in power could have just listened to Chris Hayes, to Ed Yong and James Hamblin!
And yet none of those responsible for literal mass death has come out in public to say that these “fearmongers” were right, and that they are very damn sorry they didn’t listen, because now the hospitals are overrun. Not Jared Kushner, who utterly botched the initial pandemic response, not the organizers of the Sturgis motorcycle rally in plague-ravaged South Dakota. I have not seen one of them make the slightest shred of an attempt to make amends, to ‘reconcile’, with those whose warnings proved correct. Who should be doing the ‘reaching out’, here?!
Trump’s failure to lead the nation and protect its people in March would have been bad enough had it not been compounded by the fact that he knew about the danger and lied about it, as we learned from the almost equally incomprehensible Bob Woodward, who failed to disclose what he knew so he could write a book. Bob Woodward, you too should be ashamed, and you should say so.
Attention on the United States from the rest of the world is always out of proportion, but right now it is insanely out of proportion, a hairball bigger than the cat that barfed it. Americans have a sliver of a chance to demonstrate that there is some conscience left among us by requiring those who did harm to express contrition for having caused harm, and if they do not, to be denied any further role in public life. And obviously, it’s incredible that this needs to be said, but those who are guilty of crimes must be prosecuted (just for a change!) The absence of accountability means condoning wrongdoing, as a glance at cable TV news, with its parade of war-criminal guests, can show you.
Demanding accountability is what being ‘reasonable’ requires of us. Being ‘empathetic’ means empathy for those who’ve been harmed, before we begin even to think of empathizing with those who’ve done harm. It’s an insult to every family broken by ICE, an insult to the memory of George Floyd, to ask that Trump voters be forgiven in the absence of a recantation, and an expression of regret for all the wrong they’ve done.