Remember: We are not enemies

It was most gracious of Alan Fein to praise Bobbie Savage and to celebrate their friendship in his recent column, despite their occupying opposite positions in the political “Great Divide.”

I’ve known them both for many years, played a lot of basketball with Allan, and believe he is completely sincere.

Os Guinness, an Irish political philosopher recently wrote that, “America has never been this divided since the Civil War,” which I thought was a bit of an overstatement, given Vietnam, civil rights and other divisive issues. But I have come to believe Guinness.

The last time I saw Alan I was having lunch in Coral Gables with a long-time friend who is a staunch Democrat. Politics has put a strain on our friendship, which I think transcends politics, but which I hope will survive. She and her sister no longer speak to each other. Alan’s column set forth a number of these criticisms regarding Donald Trump. It doesn’t mention Joe Biden or what he has done or promised, and I think this reflects the general tenor of the election.

I don’t know anyone who is truly enthusiastic about Biden as president. I know a lot of people who hate Trump, including most of my family. I find myself quoting words of Abraham Lincoln from his first inaugural address just before the Civil War: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.”

I think Alan’s comments reflect that view. I also suspect he subscribes to (former US Supreme Court justice Antonio) Scalia’s explanation of this close friendship with his political opposite, Justice (Ruth Bader) Ginsberg: “I attack ideas, not people.”

Even Trump’s ardent supporters acknowledge there are things he has said and done that we wish he had not. But we celebrate a long list of accomplishments that have benefitted us all. His detractors focus on his abrasive personality, arrogance and overwhelming boastfulness. They are also remarkably intolerant of any departure from their own agenda. Conservatives are fired, forced to resign, lose important opportunities or compelled to grovel in apologies for their various shortcomings, including white privilege and other original sins.

Presidents come and go, which I think is an excellent arrangement. But my primary concern is for the survival of our republic and for the survival of a strong, two-party system, no matter who is in charge at the moment. I’m stunned by the brilliance of the Founding Fathers. Bunch of farmers -- not a PhD or political scientist among the lot of them, but they understood human nature.

America is an exceptional country that I think most of the world envies even if they won’t admit it. Celebrating that used to be called patriotism. A republic like ours is an extremely fragile thing (all previous republics have failed) and maintaining ours requires exceptional people, which I’m not so sure we still have enough of.

The fact that Alan is willing to publicly commend Bobbie in today’s toxic political environment speaks highly of the strength of his character.

Democrats have been attacked by members of their own party for offering a small act of basic civility to a Republican. Dialing down the rhetoric would be helpful. The CNN reporter comparing Trump’s term to Kristullnacht might want to keep in mind that the Republicans didn’t bring us the “nights of broken glass” and the looting, fires and other violence styled as “peaceful demonstrations” that have plagued our major cities for months.

So, it goes. The headline on Alan’s column about “flawed support of Trump” is sort of a “foul away from the ball” as they say, which Alan was never known for, but Bobbie is also magnanimous, and I’m sure she will let that one go. Blessing to them both. Our village is fortunate to have them.

Peace in the ‘hood, as my criminal defense friends say.

Justin Edward Beals