“We’ve Got to Get Back to Normal”

I don’t know how many people saw Michael Cohen’s testimony yesterday. I saw it in bits and pieces. It was painful. Painful to see a man facing his own failings. Painful to think of what his children and his wife are going through. Painful to think of Cohen sitting there knowing he is the agent of their sorrow. And painful to see the blind partisanship and hypocrisy so blatantly on display on both sides of the aisle if we’re honest.

And, sadly, our increasingly tribal orientation makes it ever more difficult to openly and honestly discuss our differences or seek a path that will result in the best choices for our nation.

At the end end of the day, House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings voiced his concerns and plaintively declared “We’ve got to get back to normal.” “We’re better than this” he asserted, and I want to believe he is right. But whether we will find our way “back to normal” is something I worry about.

More than ever we need thoughtful discourse about our nation’s direction. The challenges are not getting easier. In this environment how will we address issues of social and economic inequality?. How will we help those who have been left behind and those who have never been ahead? What is the future of health care for our children and their children?

How will we tackle the issues that are at the heart of the debate on the Green New Deal? How will we provide education without mortgaging our children’s future? Can we find ways to tackle issues of gender or racial equality or reproductive rights in a way that is respectful to all?

These issues will cut across our society, affecting people on the left and on the right irrespective of our tribal identities. But, if we insist on talking about these issues as tribes, rather than as Americans, we won’t find the answers that work best for our country — only more division.

I think Representative Cummings was right. We have to find a way to remember who we are as Americans. It can’t just be us versus them. We can’t lose the ability to talk to each other, to listen to each other, or to recognize that none of us — neither those on the right nor those on the left — has the market cornered on wisdom. None of us.

We have to find a way to get back to normal. I hope we are still capable of doing so.

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