From Bruce Thornton, a Professor of Classics and Humanities at the California State University.
Thanksgiving Day elicited several calls for “unity” and “healing,” following a divisive and bitterly fought presidential election. Several pundits referenced Abraham Lincoln’s wish “to heal the wounds of the nation,” which he articulated in the speech instituting Thanksgiving Day in 1863. Donald Trump said in his Thanksgiving address, “It’s my prayer that on this Thanksgiving, we begin to heal our divisions and move forward as one country, strengthened by shared purpose and very, very common resolve.”
Nice sentiments all, and one hopes they are merely feel-good rhetoric typical of holidays. For as comforting as they are for some, they reflect a misunderstanding of our political order and the foundational ideas behind the Constitution. Except in times of war or other national crises, “national unity” and “healing divisions” frightened the Founders, for “unity” historically has been the precondition of tyranny…
This is taken from a very helpful piece titled, “‘Healing Divisions’ and ‘Unity’ Are Unconstitutional.” Dr. Thornton’s assertion is that factional, personal and regional self-interests are not only real but are unavoidable because they are rooted in human nature and are part of the formula for which the kind of government we have erected is meant through its system of checks and balances. To seek to rise above those checks and balances by squashing differences and by governmental acts which choose to ignore the rule of law that apply to all the people is, in fact, to erode our best chance of national flourishing. It is in the interplay of our diversity and varied interests that we will find that kind of unity which in the end makes us stronger.
An example, for me, is the assertion by President Elect Trump that ‘mercy’ for Hillary Clinton would be a healing thing, as if the bold corruption and illegality of her conduct can be overlooked and we would be better off if we did. In one fell swoop, Trump calls for the elimination of checks and balances, the very means by which our differences are managed.
Would I be better off if one of the highest governmental officials of our country walked away scot free from her transgressions of the law of the land and her stewardship of office? I fail to see how. It is no personal animus when I call for our government to do what it was constructed to do. Not to do so is a strike at our balanced system of government.
As those of you who have read my posts and blog realize, I deeply regretted and still regret today the pardon issued to President Nixon. I particularly want President-Elect Trump, for whom I voted, to understand that he, too, is part of this magnificent structure of government and that he cannot by appeal to the people escape the other branches of government nor the law enacted by the people of this great country. The fact is that terrible things can be done in the call to “healing division.” One of those would be allowing our former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to get a pass on the investigations that have been launched to determine the legality or illegality of her conduct. In what sense will we be healed? Will diminished regard for the rule of law heal us, make us stronger, more just, more fair? No. The best and final role of our system of government is justice, and that justice is managed by that system of checks and balances which together guide the whole.
The full article by Thornton is here.