As we approach election day, we might be thinking ahead on how we will deal with the past four years if we get a new president.
On thinking about this, I looked back upon the lies we were fed by the Bush administration about weapons of mass destruction, rendition, torture, and so many other human rights abuses all in the service of "freedom." Lies get wrapped in the red, white and blue because they sell much better, but they are still lies.
Obama chose, with Biden as VP, to close that chapter without any accountability. I think that was a mistake because it paved the way for the degradation of the public discourse that devolved into 20,000 lies during the Trump era not to mention the wholesale destruction of the gains it took decades to achieve in race relations, voting rights, immigration and many other areas.
From a Quaker perspective, in my humble opinion, I don't think there can be any moving forward without integrity. And by integrity what I mean is this: taking a hard look at what was done that violated not just our constitution, but the norms of decency we assumed were in place in our government and in our society.
As things stand now, all bets are off. Next presidents, democrat or republican, can do whatever they like, unless it is specifically prohibited. We need to put some rules in place to limit the power of the presidency. The notion of the unitary executive needs to be hobbled if we are to maintain co-equal branches of government and not slip into dictatorship. We learned exactly how fragile our institutions were over the past four years.
To forgive is appropriate, but we must not simply gloss over and forget. There has to be accountability. A presidential crimes commission would be a good start. Not because we want to punish Trump, but because a fair and just society demands it. Such a commission may not even choose to levy a penalty other than the indictment of history, but it needs to happen.
Some say it will further divide an already divided country, but there can be no true healing without a full accounting. A form of restorative justice would be not only to roll back the draconian rules that were put into place, but uplift those who got left behind. If we look back on the civil war and reconstruction, the process of restorative justice was truncated by Andrew Johnson and we saw the rise of lynchings, jim crow laws, red lining and so much more physical and economic violence. We can't let that happen again.
It is time that America comes to terms with our past and passes through the eye of this needle whole on the other side.
Some queries that are with me on the eve of the election are:
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