Already, a pre-autopsy of how Trump took over America highlights crucial issues.

Most of all, the greatest danger is not Trump himself. The greatest danger is the wedge that exists within our society. Without this wedge, Trump would not be able to operate.

While we might have failed to address the deeper origins of our societal wedge over the past several decades, Trump’s election in 2016 should have been a wake-up call.

Over the past four years, we have faced a choice: to chip away at the wedge, or to widen it. We have faced this choice in multiple dimensions, ranging from the policies we advocate to the empathy we model to the social and political discourse we promote to the political candidates we choose to the anti-extremism strategies we support.

Rather than focusing on universal human rights, we have become more preoccupied with different human identities. Rather than pursuing social justice while building unity and inclusion, we have fallen for a form of justice that drives divisions.

Rather than focusing on universal human rights, we have become more preoccupied with different human identities. Rather than pursuing social justice while building unity and inclusion, we have fallen for a form of justice that drives divisions.

We cannot sacrifice our principles in the fight for those same principles. Our means must be morally consistent with our ends.

And when we dehumanize other people, we otherize them, planting the false belief in our minds that we do not share the same humanity. Consequently, we lose sight not only of our own capacity for dehumanization but of the common bonds that tie all of us on this planet together.

Now, we do not have the power to change our past. But we have the power to change our future.

Even at this late moment in our crisis, we still have the opportunity to change course. Most importantly, even though we do not have the luxury of time to undo all of the fundamental determinants of extremist hate, our short-term response to hate must nevertheless be grounded in an understanding of those long-term causes.

But if this conflict is to be resolved by force — and there may seem to be no other option in the face of atrocity — we must recognize that, though war may appear to defeat hate, violence is only a form of suppression.

Consequently, as the hate may seem to dissipate and as our society may seem to stabilize for several decades following a war, we risk deceiving ourselves that we have defeated hate. But the roots of this hate will always remain in our soil, ready to resurrect.

Until we revolutionize our social structures and address the underlying causes of extremist hate, the stain of hate will persist in our society, and we will never achieve social resilience.

Anyone who believes that we can continue to defeat this ill by outnumbering — or outpowering — the other side is gravely mistaken. Even if we outnumber a group, the group will not disappear. Instead, structural fissures will continue to eat away at our society, as the group possibly even becomes increasingly hardened.

Additionally, we must remember that we will all lose in a war — victims and perpetrators alike.

As King also warned us, “The choice is no longer between violence and nonviolence; it is either nonviolence or nonexistence. Unless we find some alternative to war, we will destroy ourselves by the misuse of our own instruments” [1].

Therefore, no matter how righteous our causes may be, they will mean nothing if we no longer exist.

All of these realities also tell us about the central role of reconciliation following any conflict. Without an earnest effort toward reconciliation, the curse of violence will forever tear apart the fabric of our nation.

In the Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission, truth will be the beginning but not the end.

The choice will be stark: a collective future or a collective death. Reconciliation will provide the only path forward for the future and survival of our society.

But while we must bring the leading criminals to justice, the majority of the population will have to engage in the monumental undertaking of reconciliation (lest we wish to reproduce our country’s mass incarceration system). This task must be rooted in truth and justice and will be most difficult following the collective trauma of conflict.

Until we learn to be together, we will not be free.

But when our many voices learn to sing in harmony, we will produce the symphony that is togetherness, we will discover the real power of humanity, and we will watch the awesome sight as freedom and justice flow through all the waters and cover all the lands of the world.

Works Cited:

  1. King, Jr., Martin Luther and James M. Washington. 1986. A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. New York: HarperCollins.
  2. Moore, Doug. 2018. “50 years later, King’s ‘Dream’ speech remains benchmark for progress.” St. Louis Dispatch, August 8, 2013.

Human, activist, scholar. Physician-Economist-in-training @UMich. CEO @proghealth. @FulbrightPrgrm Awardee. I work on anything that matters, locally & globally.

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