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Guest column: Take no joy in another’s sorrow
Bernie Evans.jpg
Bernie Evans

On Friday Nov. 15, 2019, GOP operative Roger Stone was found guilty of all the charges levelled against him by the United States Department of Justice.

For those unaware, Mr. Stone is an ally of President Donald Trump and was instrumental in the Russian attempts to install Trump in the White House. This ploy obviously proceeded apace successfully, but we are all paying the price.

Many of my fellow Democrats, liberals and progressives, may feel a sense of relief, consolation, comfort or satisfaction in this news about Mr. Stone’s conviction. Solace even.

But a wise Judaic Proverb tells us to “Take no joy in the sorrow of another.”

Same goes for the impeachment currently underway in the US House of Representatives. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi herself has said, “This is not a happy day, it is a very sad day, nobody comes to Congress to impeach a president”.

During this, the holiday season, we should remember that much more binds Americans together than separates us. We can be sure that the 2020 presidential election will be brutal. But I continue to believe that most of us, Democrat, Republican or Independent, have only the best intentions for the nation.

So, let us now turn to the loving embrace we all know we are capable of; enjoying our families and neighbors. The mid-twentieth century Black writer James Baldwin once said, “We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.”

We have come a long way in this country since those words were first uttered; nobody openly advocates for the oppression of our African-American brothers and sisters anymore. Ruminate daily on these achievements and one can bask in the glory that is our American story.

I have been re-reading two books of late: “The Idea of America, Reflections on the Birth of the United States” by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Gordon S. Wood and “The Story of America, Essays on Origins” by Harvard historian Jill Lepore.

Mr. Gordon tells us that the ratification of the United States Constitution in 1788 was “greeted with more excitement and more unanimity among the American people than at any time since the Declaration of Independence a decade earlier”. We can only imagine.

“’Tis done! We have become a nation”, declared Benjamin Rush in July 1788. 

Everywhere in America, he said, there was “such a tide of joy as has seldom been felt in any age or country… Justice has descended from heaven to dwell in our land, and ample restitution has at last been made to human nature by our new Constitution of all the injuries she has sustained in the old world from arbitrary government, false religions, and unlawful commerce”. The new nation represented the “triumph of knowledge over ignorance, of virtue over vice, and of liberty over slavery”.

A “perfect union” we did not yet know. And a union of perfection we still know not.

But what we have, you and me and all who voice loyalty, devotion and fealty to these great United States of America, is a beautiful patchwork quilt of many shapes, sizes and colors. It is a strong, warm quilt, covering a multitude of peoples and grievances.

Lucky us, we are, in all of our individual beauty, flaws and all, herein each and every one represented.

So, politick away, but rip not from our common nation-quilt the threads that bind us. Fuss, fight and argue about tax cuts, but never question our common humanity deserving of all rights, respect and dignity.

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanzaa! Rock on, Festivus!

Evans is a writer whose opinions have appeared in local publications, TIME and The Nation.

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