Beinstein column: Where there is no mercy, there is no hope
Central to the current dysfunction in Washington is an inability to forgive.
Upset with the way Robert Bork was treated in the 1980s, for example, the Republicans recently slammed through Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Still upset over the Supreme Court’s decision in 2000, the Democrats, in 2009, rushed through the Affordable Care Act the moment they returned to power, acknowledging they didn’t even know what was in the health care bill when it passed.
Lingering with resentment over Bill Clinton’s 1998 impeachment, the Democrats seem gleeful to impeach Trump now. How else can you explain Nancy Pelosi snapping at a reporter when accused of hating the president?
And Republicans are currently fuming over these impeachment humiliations — what else explains the desperate attempt to sidestep Trump’s Ukraine issues by invoking problems that Nancy Pelosi’s son, or Joe Biden’s son, might have had in the oil and gas industry.
With a government filled with childlike adults, who pine for retaliation and hate any displays of vulnerability or humility, this is what hell must feel like — a place filled with people who only worship themselves and their own power and their own glory.
Luckily, there have been a few heavenly examples in the history of American politics. George Washington enthusiastically made peace with the British after the Revolutionary War concluded. Abraham Lincoln handed out a record amount of pardons to Southerners who wanted him dead. And Martin Luther King Jr. would often say it’s hard to judge even the worst bigot, for if you were always raised with hate, what else could you expect.
But today does indeed feel so unheavenly. Hate continues to compound on itself. The egos get larger and more vicious. And the collective heart of our government seems to only move further away from any degree of mercy or kindness.
If Trump gets another term, he’ll want further revenge on Democrats.
If Biden or another Democrat wins, he or she will light up at the chance of humiliating and mocking Republicans.
Thankfully, our Founders anticipated this dark side of human nature. James Madison famously said, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”
From a scientific standpoint, the separation of powers under which our system is predicated will allow this Republic to perpetuate itself. But there is something horribly sad, and dispiriting, that the best we can do as a country is to restrain evil. How much fonder it is to think, even if it is indeed a utopian thought, to one day leave this hell, where, instead of only loving ourselves, we loved others.
As the scriptures say, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
For a nation founded by Puritans, maybe one day we can all be something other than pagan. Happy belated New Year.
Alex Beinstein is a millennial who grew up in Aspen, lived in Carbondale for a while and now writes from Washington, D.C. His column appears monthly in the Post Independent.
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