Joe Biden. CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters

Editorial: Healing starts now

  • January 14, 2021

The Joe Biden era is on the launching pad in America, an era we pray will live in a spirit of reconciliation. Heaven knows, the country needs healing.

The chaos that enveloped Washington on Jan. 6 was hardly a shining moment for the world’s torchbearer of democracy. The images were startling — not just to right-minded Americans, but for people around the globe. Rioters, fuelled by the anger of their out-going president over a lost election, breached the security of the U.S. Capitol building, scaling its walls and smashing windows, shoving their way to its inner sanctum as police drew their guns and legislators fled. Five dead, at least 50 police officers injured, a nation in critical condition.

What’s an incoming president to do? What do any of us do, because, make no mistake, the fragility of democracy is a very real thing and is never about a single person. The notion of a nation bound by laws and the will of the people only survives when everyone plays by the rules.

The last several years have exposed a deep divide in the concept of what democracy ought to look like in the U.S., fed by clashes of class, culture and race, as well as politics. That fortress of the free world isn’t alone of course; we have seen the same forces create deep chasms in our own country.

So, back to the question at hand: After what he called “one of the darkest days of our nation,” what will Joe Biden do?

He could start by reading (or re-reading) Fratelli Tutti (On Fraternity and Social Friendship), Pope Francis’ latest encyclical and one particularly relevant to recent events. The Pope aims much of his message squarely at politicians that strikes both a scolding and challenging tone.

“Political life no longer has to do with healthy debates about long-term plans to improve people’s lives and to advance the common good, but only with slick marketing techniques primarily aimed at discrediting others,” he writes.

“Amid the fray of conflicting interests, where victory consists in eliminating one’s opponents, how is it possible to raise our sights to recognize our neighbours or to help those who have fallen along the way?”

For Francis, changing this collision course to a path of healing starts with a conversation … and perhaps a change of heart.

“Authentic reconciliation does not flee from conflict, but is achieved in conflict, resolving it through dialogue and open, honest and patient negotiation,” he writes.

“Let us renounce the pettiness and resentment of useless in-fighting and constant confrontation. Let us stop feeling sorry for ourselves and acknowledge our crimes, our apathy, our lies. Reparation and reconciliation will give us new life and set us all free from fear.”

We have no doubt democracy will survive this sad episode. It is resilient, but that is only ensured when those who practise it nurture its principles for the good of all. The Pope’s words offer some sound advice to make that happen.

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