On Debates and Votes, Human Hearts and Truth

Yesterday and today, in the shadow of the January 6 assault on the United States Capitol Building by supporters of President Donald Trump, the House of Representatives, on nearly straight party-line votes, successively, passed resolutions to enact Amendment 25 of The Constitution[1] and to impeach the president.

In each case, the debate was fierce, at times, acrimonious. Each side, whether the speaker was a Democrat or a Republican and whether in favor or opposed, largely found fault in the positions and persons of “the other.”

As I watched the proceedings, my memory stirred with a word spoken to me long ago.

In 1982, I was called to serve a Charleston parish. The then bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, the Right Reverend C. FitzSimons Allison,[2] seeking to assure me, as a black person, both of the peace and the continuing social struggle of life in the American South, said, “Paul, race hath been resolved in the law,[3] but race hath not been resolved in the hearts of men.”

Through the lens of Bishop Allison’s candid observation, I saw then and, now, see afresh this truth. A vote, especially by majority-rule, can end a debate and can enact a law. But a vote, automatically, cannot make unanimous in every heart the view of the issue (whether race, impeachment of a president, or anything else).

Therefore, it seems to me, if we, human beings (harboring our truths, what we believe to be real, in our hearts) are to live together in some state of concord, then we must (and cautiously do I employ this heavily morally freighted and weighted word) find ways:

To respect each other; to see each other through new eyes of the honesty of acceptance of our inherent individuality; and then,

To listen to each other; to hear the truths of each other’s hearts, even and especially when those expressions of reality differ; and then,

To honor as valuable, as meaningful the words we have heard and, even more, the persons who have taken the risk to express them; and then,

To find ways to dwell in peace; not the absence of disagreement, but rather and most importantly, the forsaking of the desire to diminish the humanity of another because of difference.

© 2021 PRA


[1] The 25th Amendment of The Constitution establishes procedures for the removal from office of the President of the United States for failure to fulfill the duties of office.

[2] Christopher FitzSimons Allison (1927- )

[3] By this, he meant the legislative victories of the Civil Rights Era: the 1957 and 1964 Civil Rights Acts, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the 1968 Fair Housing Act.

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