Don’t twist what unity means

Given the state of America’s union — less than three weeks removed from a violent insurrection pushed by the former president of the United States during his final days in office with help from many of his party’s congressional members — calls for national unity are wholly appropriate.

Our leaders must demonstrate that they share common ideals, and they must denounce common foes. We, the people, must also resolve to see the humanity in each other and restore our ability to engage in civil discourse.

That’s why the concept of unity was the dominant theme of President Joe Biden’s inaugural address on Jan. 20.

But for all the attention that his bigger theme received, it’s just as important to focus on what Biden didn’t say. He didn’t call for monolithic thinking. He didn’t say we all must agree all of the time.

“To all those who did not support us, let me say this: Hear me out as we move forward. Take a measure of me and my heart. And if you still disagree, so be it. That’s democracy. That’s America. The right to dissent peaceably, within the guardrails of our Republic, is perhaps our nation’s greatest strength.”

We urge everyone to keep that message at top of mind, especially in these early days of the Biden administration. This president, like all presidents before him, is making a push to put campaign policy promises into action. Many of the promises have healthy opposition, but Biden is the candidate with the support of the majority of the voting public. A phrase we’ve heard before still applies: Elections have consequences.

That doesn’t mean Biden shouldn’t be questioned and challenged. But it also doesn’t mean he must have the complete blessings of both major parties’ leaders in order to act.

In the first of what we expect will be many statements critical of Biden, central New York’s congressman, Rep. John Katko, R-Camillus, expressed his disagreement recently with some of Biden’s executive orders. In general, the congressman was being consistent with his own track record on economic and national security policies, a record that has now won him four elections.

We did have a problem, though, with one phrase in Katko’s statement: “President Biden’s actions have not reflected his unifying tone.”

That part of the congressman’s statement has appeared frequently in these first few days as a broader Republican Party strategy to blast Biden’s commitment to unity while pointing out disagreements with his actions. It’s an unreasonable approach for anyone truly concerned about repairing the damage done to our nation by the rise of political extremism.

If we are to truly lower the temperature in America and restore productive civil discourse, rhetoric that bastardizes the concept of unity needs to stop.

* Guest editorial from The Auburn Citizen in Auburn, N.Y.


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