New Jersey-Crossroads of American Reconciliation?

We are still living history as our present becomes our past.

We are approaching nearly two years of a global pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than three-quarters of a million Americans and sickened nearly 47 million in our country alone. Until Mississippi displaced us, our state had the highest COVID per capita death rate on the planet.

At the same time, even in the midst of this great common tribulation of biblical proportions, we ourselves were greatly divided when we needed unity most. Without a doubt, we were deprived of this essential cohesion, even as death went door-to-door, by a national government led by Donald Trump who had come to power on the basis of his prowess as a great divider. on racial and ethnic lines.

Much of Trump’s rise to power has happened here in the Garden State.

New Jersey is also the landscape upon which much of the American Revolution unfolded with Morristown serving as the military capital of the United States in 1779 when General Washington took up residence in the Ford Mansion.

When Washington’s troops entrenched themselves in Morristown in November 1779 during what the US National Park Service reported “it would be the coldest winter on record”, they did not know it would only be September 3, 1783, when the Treaty of Paris would be signed officially ending the American War of Independence.

During those intervening years, after the Continental Army took refuge in the hills outside of Morristown, the fate of the nation, which had yet to come, was sorely shaken here in this state, our state. .

Some 250 years later, it would be just down Route 202 (Cannonball Rd.) In Bedminster, which Donald Trump occasionally uses as a base of operations, which includes his current efforts to use the courts to hinder the investigation of the House. of his actions. It was his success in turning Trump 2020 into “Stop the Steal” that produced the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol and police protecting Congress as they prepared to commemorate the 2020 election results.

Today, some 250 years later, the American Revolution is most often seen as a mere two-dimensional conflict between the British Crown and the settlers seeking independence. But the lived experience was much messier and more like our current uproar than we realize.

Indeed, even among American settlers, opinions on the burning issue of the day regarding independence and loyalty to King George III divided families, churches and communities. Washington’s own army also had cracks that posed a threat to military cohesion. Even within the military itself fighting for this new unborn nation, there was a dynamic tension that could be so intense as to jeopardize the entire company.

It was in Morristown, in December 1779, that Major-General Benedict Arnold’s court martial resumed on 13 counts of corruption and introspection. He would be acquitted of all but two counts, for which he was acquitted with a reprimand from Washington.

Several months later, Arnold tried unsuccessfully to sell the American cause for £ 20,000 in exchange for handing over the strategic West Point and 3,000 troops. He escaped to New York under British control.

Only history could deliver a verdict.

It’s fair to say that the betrayal of the collective revolutionary effort born out of selfish greatness was part of American DNA long before the nation itself was fully formed and continues to haunt us. This manifested itself in the form of the U.S. Capitol Uprising on January 6 when President Trump and his cronies, including some New Jersey Republicans, attempted to overthrow our democracy to serve Trump’s vanity.

Just a week after the 2020 election, it was then New Jersey GOP Chairman Doug Steinhardt who called a broadcast teleconference led by Bill Stepien, Christie’s former agent who was campaign manager for Trump. During this call, they rallied the troops to raise funds around the “Stop the Steal” cause which highlighted “various cases of alleged electoral fraud, none of which were successful,” according to the InsiderNJ reporter. Fred Snowflack.

Years before Trump’s self-serving White House machinations, Governor Christie’s supporters reportedly succeeded in ordering the George Washington Bridge to endanger public safety in order to punish the citizens of Fort Lee because their mayor refused to approve the re-election of Christie.

A key member of Christie’s Bridgegate Brigade, Bill Stepien, who has become Trump’s Svengali, has now been subpoenaed to appear on December 13 before the House of Representatives special committee to investigate January 6.e Attack on the US Capitol.

“As director of the Trump 2020 re-election campaign, you oversaw all aspects of the campaign,” Representative Bennie Thompson, panel chair, wrote in a letter to Stepien. “You then oversaw the conversion of Trump’s presidential campaign into an effort focused on the ‘Stop the Steal’ message and associated fundraising. This post included the promotion of some false allegations related to the voting machines despite an internal campaign memo in which campaign staff determined that these allegations were false. “

The letter continued. “The ‘Stop the Steal’ message was echoed by individuals who attacked the US capital on January 6 in an attempt to interfere with the peaceful and orderly transfer of power. In addition, the campaign reportedly urged state and party officials to influence the outcome of the November 2020 election, including asking states to delay or deny certification of electoral votes and sending electoral vote lists. in the United States Congress. “

Only a week after the 2020 election, it was then the President of the GOP of New Jersey, Doug Steinhardt, who called a teleconference broadcast under the title Stepien to rally the troops around the cause “Stop the Steal” which put highlighted “various cases of alleged electoral fraud, none of which failed,” according to InsiderNJ reporter Fred Snowflack.

Like Arnold’s court martial, the failure of federal lawsuits against Christie’s Bridgegate Junta presaged efforts for an even bolder project. Certainly, Trump’s success in capturing New Jersey politicians and regulators as he cornered the Atlantic City casino industry, gave him the perch from which he could take on America.

While COVID was the virus that plagued us, it is the division and suspicion promoted by Trump that continues to expand our affliction.

Yet with each passing day, as the number of Americans vaccinated continues to rise and deaths and hospitalizations continue to decline, there are signs of a recovery. As we embrace this common lesson of how to do it for each other by getting vaccinated, something more promising and lasting presents itself.

And it shouldn’t go unnoticed that all 12 New Jersey members of Congress, including Republicans Chris Smith and Jeff Van Drew, voted for President Biden’s $ 1.2 trillion bill once in a generation. infrastructure and vocational training.

We should be proud of the fact that our state, as far as I can tell from looking through the Congressional record, is the only state where, despite Trump’s objection, there was full bipartisan consensus to keep a peripheral promise. which took decades to hold.

Could the state that was the crossroads of the American Revolution be the crossroads of our 21st the reconciliation of the century when we unite to meet the real challenges of our well-being such as child poverty and climate change?

Let’s hope so.

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About Ronda Reed

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