This past week, with the US Presidential election still in doubt, I was asked by the Opinion Editor of The Scotsman to prepare three opinion pieces to allow for a wide variety of outcomes. The first was based upon the previous US president being re – elected. The second would focus upon a Biden – Harris victory. The third was in case of an uncertain outcome. Fortunately, the Biden – Harris victory piece prevailed. However, I thought you might enjoy seeing the one that would have appeared if the previous US President has remained in office. Here it is.
Forgiveness, Redemption, Reconciliation
Future of America in the World
by Professor Joe Goldblatt
“You are un – American!” shouted the other guest on an American talk radio show and I was the sole target of his accusation. When I heard these words my spine stiffened and the hairs upon the back of my neck stood straight up. As it turned out, our debate was about tourism and not about going to war, feeding poor children or other critical societal matters. However, his wound was just as deep and nearly twenty – five years later I still recall his words and my reaction with trepidation and remorse.
Now that the dust from the recent election has begun to settle in my home country, I am able to look across the pond and wonder if the re – election of Donald J Trump has caused more anarchy or perhaps in some miraculous way it could be a short term cure for the ills that are afflicting over 300 million citizens and their billions of cousins throughout the world.
Following a hard fought campaign that resulted in the greatest percentage of early voting in the history of that republic, the vitriol must ultimately give way to forgiveness and let us hope redemption. Although, thanks in large part to an army of media pundits and historians, we shall long remember and for many regret the many challenges of the past year.
The concept of civic forgiveness is something that I experienced when giving a series of lectures in Amman, Jordan. The Minister of Tourism invited me to a farewell dinner high atop the capital city in a post revolving restaurant. Before the starters had even been served, he turned to me in front of his other guests, furrowed his brow and with a reddened face and asked “Why do you hate us so much?” I was shocked and actually speechless.
He then went on to explain that he knew I was a member of the Jewish people and that Israel systematically made it difficult for the Jordanian people to visit their country through what he described as discriminatory border inspections. I listened to his long rant and then drew and deep breath and replied in a quiet voice.
“Minister, first of all, I do not hate you. I love you. You have invited me to this magnificent restaurant to enjoy an evening of fellowship and friendship with my Arab brothers and sisters and also experience the fantastic cuisine of your country. I know that for many thousands of years there has been conflicts between Israel and the Arab world. However, whilst I do not believe it is neither natural or normal to easily forget the problems of the past, I do believe the first step is to remember and forgive.” The Minister then smiled and raised his glass to me and said “As – salamu alaykum” (peace be unto you).
As a result of the outcome of the US Presidential election there will great disappointment from the losing side as well as great fear and concern. However, from the victors there will also be, as expected great joy and hope.
The major question I have as I cast my eye across the pond is how may the victors and the vanquished remember the sorrows of the past, also find forgiveness in their hearts and move forward to create a fairer, more just, and generous nation for all?
I believe this can only happen through a process of redemption. The word redemption also means to return. If we are to return to those values that first formed the ideas of the United States of America, I am certain that forgiveness must be at the top of the list. It is now up to the victor and the vanquished to ask one another to forgive them for their trespasses so that they may make a commitment to find ways to work together to build upon the values set forth by the founding fathers of the United States.
This type of reconciliation is hard work and takes time. I think of South Africa following the period of apartheid when Nelson Mandella encouraged all of his fellow citizens to embark on a journey of truth and reconciliation. Only through and honest and open discourse that includes forgiveness, may reconciliation begin to take root.
One of Scotland’s greatest sons, Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote that “An event strikes root and grows into a legend, when it has happened amongst congenial surroundings.” We have had our event on 3 November and now we must provide more congenial surroundings in order for positive growth to begin.
Whilst I and many others shall never forget the systemic societal fractures caused on both sides of the pond by raised voices shouting once again “You are un – American!” we must also remember that the best way forward for our American cousins and indeed the entire world is forgiveness, redemption and reconciliation. Let us now turn our swords into ploughshares and begin the hard and important work that will result in a more civil society both in America and within our own country.
Professor Joe Goldblatt is Emeritus Professor of Planned Events at Queen Margaret University. He holds both Scottish and US citizenship and he has also been described as an “Honorary Orcadian” due to his many visits. He did not vote for, Donald J Trump and he regrets having produced the opening of Mr Trump’s casino, the Trump Taj Mahal in 1990. To read more about Professor Goldblatt’s views visit www.joegoldblatt.scot