EDITORIAL: Opponents, not enemies

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  • Mike Pence
    Mike Pence
    48th Vice President of the United States
  • Donald Trump
    Donald Trump
    45th President of the United States

Jan. 6—Democracy is at the same time fragile and resilient.

That's one lesson of Jan. 6, 2021. Taken to the edge, it prevailed. The 2020 election was certified. Nevertheless, it was a harrowing glimpse into an abyss, a too-close call for many Americans and we were spared a tumble into it because of a number of people, ranging from Vice President Mike Pence to election officials at the state and local levels.

A year later serious questions still linger, including: How did we get here? How did we get to the point where we have lost faith not just in the election process, but in the basic goodness and integrity of each other?

In judging people by the "D" or the "R," and summing them by that alone, we have made a false god out of politics, and in doing so we have turned neighbors into enemies, become vulnerable to manipulation and allowed ourselves to be exploited.

Former President Donald Trump's role on Jan. 6 has been settled. Maybe not legally, but unequivocally. "There is no question — none — that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the that day," said Sen. Mitch McConnell. If you have doubts yet, then read the latest book by one of Trump's earliest and most committed supporters, Chris Christie, who takes his prosecutor's perspective to the claims of a stolen election, and concluded in "Republican Rescue" that "Trump caused the insurrection ..." and "the president bore personal responsibility."

But whatever your views of Trump and his role that day, how do we explain the actions of thousands of Americans?

On any other day, the people who attacked the Capitol might have been the guy who repairs our car, the woman who teaches our children, the family that cheers alongside us at the game on Friday night. On any other day, they were neighbors, friends and family. Yet on Jan. 6, they were storming barricades, assaulting officers, vandalizing a sacred American building, chanting "Hang Mike Pence."

Did the evolution in media contribute to this radicalization?

There's no doubt that game has changed, but the genie of social media and the consequences it has wrought — good and bad — won't go back into the bottle. All those changes are here to stay. So are its consequences.

Harder than the question of how we got here is the question of how we go forward?

We can start by acknowledging a truth we lost sight of, and we're not talking just about the results of the 2020 election.

The truth this country has lost sight of, the truth it needs to get back to, is summed up in the words of former state Sen. Richard Webster, R-Carthage, who used to tell people, and politicians in Jefferson City, "All the good guys are not in our party, and all the bad ones are not in theirs."

It is summed up in the words of the late U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, who said, "The president was my opponent and not my enemy."

There is no going back to an earlier America, but without this central truth about ourselves leading the way, there is no path forward, either.

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