No. I will not move on; I will not forget and forgive.
The Confederate flag of the secessionist Southern states of 1861 was proudly displayed as enraged Trump supporters stormed our nation’s Capital to overturn the results of a free, democratic election. Domestic terrorism, plain and simple. A crowd of thousands cheered as these so-called patriots desecrated the same values they claim to revere. The most revolting part is that half of this country watched this attempted coup d’état with pride. Americans watched as the contemptible president they voted for coaxed his sycophantic followers into committing treason in his name, and these Americans felt as if justice were finally being done. The single most devastating blow to this nation’s fundamental ideal of democracy, and half this country voted for the disgraceful man responsible. I genuinely do not know how to feel or what to do now. Inauguration day has come and gone, Trump is officially a one-term president and Biden is number 46. But what does that mean now? Are we supposed to forgive and forget? Move on? I do not think I can.
One man is not responsible for the disgraceful way this country started the new year. One man did not single-handedly unravel everything this nation has been striving for ever since its inception. No, this rock bottom was only reached through diligent right-wing collaboration and coordination. Sensationalizing partisan politics to increase profits, stoking racial tensions to secure electoral victories, and willfully ignoring longstanding injustices maintained the pleasant illusion of a representative democracy. That is what brought us to this new low. As the Republican Party continually catered to the elites, and slowly stripped the federal government of its authority and credibility, conservative pundits appealed to the fears of the uneducated masses. For decades, conservative media exhaustively reported on attacks on “American values” from “the others” among us, from immigrants, Muslims, gay-rights activists, and Black Lives Matter protestors. Meanwhile, Republican legislators defunded social services and public education, removed labor and consumer protections, undermined constitutional protections with the Patriot Act or stringent, exclusionary voter ID laws. As conservative lawmakers exclusively served themselves and their special-interest donors, their voters were kept on high-alert by exposés on supposed welfare fraud or hero articles about gun owners standing their ground. And what were the Democrats doing, through all this? Meekly appeasing these fools and their ignorant followers, fruitlessly attempting to reach across the aisle as if compromise had not been thrown out the window. Instead of promoting voices of much-needed radical progressive change, the Democrats sought to maintain the status quo ante. Why fix what isn’t broken, they reasoned? When a system is broken, this is complacent. When it’s rotting from the inside out, this is irresponsible.
Our new President Biden continues to talk about unity and reconciliation and about how we as a nation need to collectively move past the bitterness and build a better future together. Abraham Lincoln similarly called for unity after the Civil War. Lincoln held that, above all else, the Union’s survival was most important. When his fellow Republicans wanted to punish the failed Confederacy for their treasonous insurrection, Lincoln fought back, insisted that such harsh reprisals would further divide the country. So instead of punishing Southern states, the Reconstruction Era focused on rebuilding Southern governments and economies. After pouring incalculable funds into Reconstruction, the North left, once again leaving the South to its own devices. With the North gone, it was back to business as usual. Domestic terrorists became career politicians and Jim Crow laws restored the antebellum status quo in everything but name. As I reflect on the current state of this country, I find myself asking what national unity is worth. Why would I want to share my country with such hateful, ignorant, and backward people? We tried moving on after the Civil War: it did not work. Accountability is necessary, or the country dies.
No. I will not move on; I will not forget and forgive. Friends I have associated with, people I have worked with, family members I have loved all my life; I can never look at any of them the same way. From the ardent supporters to the ones who were too cowardly to draw a line in the sand, every person who actively or passively brought this nation to this breaking point, should be ashamed. Reconciliation is the farthest thing from my mind. I don’t want to live in a country where Trump’s catastrophic tenure is perceived as anything but reprehensible. I don’t want my daughter to grow up around people who idealize such a thoroughly wretched man. I don’t want to attend family dinners, sitting across from people who believe Trump’s heinous crimes were just liberal propaganda. No more reaching across the aisle, no more bi-partisan compromises, no more appeasements. Negotiation died the day Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol and were greeted by well-mannered police officers who let them pass.
This is what we have seen in the past few months: citizens peacefully protest this government’s systemic violence against people of color during the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, and they get savagely beaten, pepper sprayed, or even murdered. Other citizens attempt to overthrow this nation’s democratically elected government, and the police pose for their Instagram pictures and hold their hands. That does not sound like a Union worth preserving.
*Cameron Galeano, internacionalista de Virginia Tech University