Less than a month into the Biden presidency, the collective forgetting has already begun. Even amid an impeachment trial against a president who attempted to incite a coup, the cries for unity from Republicans, moderates, and some self-proclaimed liberals grow louder. The hand-wringing about political division continues.
It’s not just Trump supporters, either. Many of the same people who poured into the streets to push back against Tyranny seem to think that the election of Biden has somehow fixed everything. In my liberal community, the same progressives who, just a few months ago, recognized that policing is fundamentally broken now celebrate “gaming with a cop,” an event that is supposed to somehow solve problems with policing by convincing teenagers that cops are their friends. Across the nation, overwhelmingly white organizations like Braver Angels tell us that what we really need to do is have “brave” conversations and empathize with the other side. We must end this polarization, they tell us.
I’m glad we’re divided. A divided nation is a good thing when one side of the divide wants to imprison and rape immigrant children, tear babies away from their nursing mothers and leave them to die, allow police to murder Black people with impunity, and leave children to die because their parents can’t afford food or healthcare.
We should all be happy to stand in stark contrast to the abuses of the far right.
Those who argue we should heal do not care about the healing of the people most victimized by the Trump administration—and by the years of white supremacy, sexism, and xenophobia that existed well before Trump.
They promoters of unity want us to believe the problem isn’t police brutality, or rape, or men who assault women outside of abortion clinics. It’s not that roughly half of the country is fine with letting poor children starve. Oh, no. Those evils pale in comparison to the real evil, the most urgent problem: judging others for their actions, and correctly labeling those actions as evil. Sure, those starving children are sad, the Republican cries, but the real tragedy is that my neighbor’s mad at me for letting them starve!
Don’t buy it. Calling oppression oppression is not abuse. It’s not divisive. It’s a statement of fact. And if we want to build a better society, we have to live in the world of facts. There are right and wrong opinions, moral and immoral views, and a person who thinks an immigrant baby belongs on the concrete floor of a cell, alone and crying, does not deserve to be heard. They certainly don’t deserve your friendship.
Our empathy and our attention, as always, belong with the oppressed. Turn your attention to those needs and you’ll find an avalanche of real problems, none of which have anything to do with political division.
The work is not done now that Biden is president. Instead, those of us who care about justice must work longer and harder than ever to rebuild what Trump broke and dismantle centuries of institutional oppression. Division is important. It helps us correctly identify what we stand for and what we don’t. It helps us call things what they are.
Stay divided. The most vulnerable need that division as much as ever.