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Here’s to hoping for one diverse nation under God

The real test of leadership is not on the horizon; it’s staring us in the face. While we may be spectators, if any major escalation that resembles civil war in the United States occurs, it will have a huge and direct impact in Bermuda — as it did in 1776 and 1861.

Our relative tranquility rests on the leadership of President-elect Joe Biden and his new administration.

President Donald Trump's folly has reached untenable levels and he will be removed from his post. But that does not remove the anger and rage of tens of millions of American supporters of his who believe the election was stolen.

Donald Trump supporters gather outside the Capitol in Washington last week. As rioters converged on the US Capitol Building, the grounds normally hailed as the seat of American democracy became a melting pot of extremist groups. Militia members, white supremacists, paramilitary organisations and fervent supporters of the outgoing president stood shoulder to shoulder, unified in rage (File photograph by Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

Their rage is not passive or benign. Five persons are dead and it would have been more, including possible mass lynchings of no less than Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Vice-President Mike Pence.

It doesn't stop there, and no amount of appeals for calm can disarm the militias that have been formed, backed by persons who believe their sovereign challenge today is the same as that of their forefathers in 1776.

Patriotic zeal, even if misguided, is still zeal — which is not easily tamed. The job for the Biden leadership is not only to curb the violence, but to win over hearts and souls. America needs to heal the division that sees itself at the brink of a chasm, which could divide it for ever with civil war.

I heard Ivanka Trump and her brother stand in front of the crowd before the invasion of the Capitol, declaring that this was a Trump Republican Party. A new movement in reverse of the 1776 movement of the people “for the people” against the monarchy. This movement so as to establish Trump as an unquestionable, or even unchallengeable, designate as the ruler is a modern-day push for a monarchy.

Normally an attack on the Capitol, in particular when the goal was also to take the lives of individuals, is called treason where Trump himself has claimed what he would do against someone who commits such an offence.

The problem here is that the harsher the punishment, the more pushback the Government will get from the supporters of Trump.

Finding the middle ground that also sets a precedent, and levies a suitable penalty for grossly obvious crimes against the Constitution, while settling comfortably with his support base — which is nearly half the country — is probably impossible. But they cannot give it a pass for peace’s sake without setting a horrible standard for the future. Usually, a settlement such as that becomes territorial, where the end result is a separation.

If it ends peacefully and the union is preserved, the separation will happen but would be made within the Republican Party. A new party would emerge either as a Trumpian party or the majority of the existing party would forge on and remake the party in the image of Abraham Lincoln. If it’s war, the result would be either a fractured union but intact as a whole, or some states would become independent from the union or attempt to form a confederacy.

It is hard to imagine that we can be talking this way, but it is real. The presidency of Joe Biden is at a crossroads even before it begins, similar to the presidency of Lincoln. Kamala Harris, the future Vice-President, has no small role to play in defending the ideal of "One Nation Under God" — and may we add, for our time, one diverse nation under God.

If a division occurs, it most certainly will be cut along racial lines by those least tolerant of diversity and beholden to white supremacist views. They will want a world of their own where they can establish their bigotry.

How the next few weeks roll out will be very interesting. My prayer is that it settles amicably and that none of what I see as potentially happening occurs. Bermuda will be better as a result, as will the world.

After this pandemic, we need to rebuild our lives and the global economy. The best environment for growth is peace.

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Published January 14, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated January 13, 2021 at 4:27 pm)

Here’s to hoping for one diverse nation under God

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