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We begin 2023 with the past year having ended on a high note. The results of the mid-term elections were an unequivocal sign that most Americans listened to Liz Cheney when she said Donald Trump should never be allowed to become president again.

They went even further and said they didn’t want any Trump wannabes in power either. 

What a wonderful way to begin 2023. Our nation’s willingness to stand up against homegrown tyranny was put to the test and we passed it!

But the struggle for democracy is not over yet. Trump was a terrible president because he is a terrible man who affected us in terrible ways. It would be a serious mistake to believe we can simply put Trump behind us as if he was never President. We have to rethink our thinking about the role each of us plays in preserving the way of life we treasure.  

For one thing, we would do well to admit that our own cynicism about American politics probably played a role in Trump gaining power. 

It’s easy to call everybody a crook, to believe the government is controlled by “dark money, or to promote the idea that the government is the problem and the weaker it is, the better.

I confess that at times I have found myself thinking this way, but I now realize that whenever I have I was assuming our democracy would always be there. I was taking it for granted as if it were a rock never to be moved. 

Trump proved how wrong that attitude was – and is. In the real world of today’s politics, American style democracy is always fragile, as our founders knew it would be. Cynicism is so dangerous because it produces apathy that leads us to abandon our role as citizens to keep our democracy strong. We can do better…and must.

A second thought is that we need to recover our trust in the reality of truth.

Trump began his presidency using phrases such as “fake media” and “alternative facts” and making evidence seem like a “he said/she said” proposition in order to undercut and undermine our trust that truth actually exists.

He and everyone around him, every Republican politician who supported him, and every American who voted for him, wanted the nation to reject the belief that truth is real and stable.  

Not knowing the whole truth doesn’t mean truth doesn’t exist, but Trump et al. tried to convince the nation that searching for truth was a waste of time, that truth was and is whatever people believe it is.

If we hope to recover from the Trump years, it will involve a re-establishment of our trust in truth. It is a simple thing, really. We accept a conclusion to be true because it is based on the best evidence and facts available to us and do not vary from that truth until new evidence and facts emerge. 

A third thought I want to suggest is that without trust in the reality of truth, moral standards are impossible to establish.

The reason Trump denied the reality of truth is because he was and is profoundly immoral, which is why he is the embodiment of evil. The word “evil” literally means “profoundly immoral.” That is Donald Trump.

Moral leadership is not possible when a nation doesn’t believe in truth. The United States lost the trust of other nations during the Trump presidency because they could not trust that we believed in being truthful about anything. They believed he would say and do anything to benefit himself at their expense, and they were right. 

Moral leadership tells the truth and holds itself to account for its failures when it doesn’t. Frail and flawed human beings are still capable of exerting moral leadership, and the nation should and must expect it of our political leaders. 

Fourth, we need to renew our allegiance to the Constitution.

That begins with reading it in order to see both its beauty and its genius and to gain a fresh appreciation for the core principles on which everything depends. That is especially true for the rule of law. Without it nothing works except raw power.

Being a nation of laws means that laws must be applied equally to everyone without regard to race, creed, color, station in life, position in life, or anything else.

Applying the law to everyone equally is under challenge as I write this in at least two ways.

The first is whether or not voters will hold the people they support to their primary duty, upholding their oath of office to preserve and protect the Constitution. To vote for or support anyone who is unwilling to do that is to vote against one’s own country. It represents a profound betrayal of being a citizen of this great nation.

The second is to expect Donald Trump to be brought to trial if the evidence says he committed the crimes of which he is accused. No exception can be tolerated. How such a step would affect the country is immaterial because nothing would do greater harm than allowing his being a former president to allow him to be above the rule of law.

His fate should be determined solely and only by the evidence, period. Otherwise, he will be allowed to undermine our democracy even though he is out of office.

A fifth thought about the role we play in preserving our way of life is to teach our children everything about American history, everything, the good and the bad alike. 

Enough of book banning and uniformed incendiary claims that white children are being taught to hate America by religious extremists whose understanding of morality exalts self-righteous moralism.

Telling all our children the truth about the slaughter of native Americans, about slavery, segregation, anti-Semitism, or any failure of our nation to live up to its stated ideals does not diminish their patriotism, it humanizes it.

Indeed, the way to become a more perfect union is to be honest with ourselves about the many ways we have not been. Intentional ignorance protects nothing while knowledge gives us hope for making life better than it has been or is.

One final thought is that we can connect protecting and preserving our way of life and the moral conviction that for all of us to do well, all of us have to do well, not just some of us.

The reason social programs are necessary is because capitalism creates economic inequality. That’s not an opinion, it is a fact, and it is why the fear-mongering that goes on about “socialism” ought to offend all of us. 

We don’t have a free market. We have a market largely controlled by corporations to maximize their profits. This is why millions don’t make a livable wage and why things like Obamacare are so necessary.

Before it was made law, former Speaker of House John Boehner said something to the effect that Obamacare was “the greatest threat to our freedom” in the history of the nation.

How utterly ridiculous for him to argue that a program that would help the 40 million Americans who could not afford health insurance and did not have access to healthcare represented a grave threat to democracy. Ten years later I wish Boehner and all those who agreed with him would explain just how Obamacare has threatened our democracy.

Indeed, in an economy that allows corporate America to have all the power, the only advocate ordinary Americans have that offsets corporate power is the government, a government that is supposed to be of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Rather than worrying about the poor getting help they don’t need, we will be a better and stronger nation if we focus on how to make sure no American family is left behind economically or educationally. 

Helping people have a decent life never has and never will threaten our freedom. What does and always has is economic injustice that thrives on the haves getting more and more and have-nots less and less. 

These, then, are some of the things on which I hope you will reflect as we begin 2023. If we allow them to shape our thinking and our attitudes and guide our actions, each of us will be doing our part to protect and preserve the Constitution and the way of life it makes possible.

To do that will mean this year will be even better than the way 2022 ended.