Paul Gibbs: Before we can heal we must clean out the infection of lies

Trump and his supporters must be held accountable for encouraging violence.

(Gerald Herbert | AP photo) President Donald Trump speaks to the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 in Washington. The president is traveling to Texas.

Before having a kidney transplant more than a decade ago, I had a surgery to remove my original kidneys. Most kidney transplant patients don’t have the original organs removed, but after a lifetime of kidney disease starting at birth, mine were in such bad shape that they were a severe risk to infect the new kidney, and had to go.

Recovery was brutal. I felt like I had been run over by a train. I resisted calls to get up and walk around the hospital halls because it was just too painful and difficult. But my doctors stressed that no matter how good the care and treatment they gave me, if I didn’t take responsibility and do the work of getting up and walking, and following the prescribed treatment plan, I would never heal. 

So I fought past the difficulty and did my part, and that’s when the healing began.

That memory has rushed back to me amid calls for “unity and healing” in the wake of the recent riots on the United States Capitol and the debate over accountability for President Donald Trump.

There’s no question that our country needs to heal and come together. We all know that a house divided against itself cannot stand, and our nation is more intensely divided than at any point in my lifetime. As we debate how to move forward, Republican members of Congress decry impeachment and removal proceedings against the president on the grounds that they will further divide the nation.

I find this argument to be at best misguided, and at worst an excuse to abdicate responsibility to hold the president accountable. As with me and my surgery, they need to take responsibility for their part in healing. Also as with my transplant, a toxic source of infection must be removed as the first step. In this case, it’s the lie that the fair and secure 2020 presidential election was “stolen” by Democrats.

Americans must relearn how to disagree with civility, and that will take work from all sides. But repeating a blatant lie is not legitimate disagreement. And the claims of widespread election fraud are nothing less than a lie perpetuated by the president and his enablers (including Utah Reps. Chris Stewart and Burgess Owens, and Attorney General Sean Reyes).

No legitimate evidence of this charge has been brought forward, and over 60 court cases arguing it have failed. Officials from two different branches of the Department of Homeland Security declared this the most secure election in American history. Yet the lie persists, and has led to the appalling sight of a violent insurrection at the Capitol, and warning of more to come.

We cannot begin to heal or come together based on accepting a lie. It will infect our society as long as it is allowed to remain. Any healing must begin with refuting the lie, and with accountability for those who spread it and encouraged insurrection based upon it. Not only must President Trump be held accountable, so must others like Stewart, Owens and Reyes.

Calls for the resignation of these Utah officials are warranted and just. They have undermined the United States by repeating a lie and fanning the flames of insurrection. It is time for them to take some of the personal responsibility they preach.

We all want to heal. But we can’t unless we do the work. Honesty and accountability must be the basis of this healing and unity. Getting up and walking begins with the difficult and painful first steps. And it’s on all of us to take them.

Paul Gibbs

Paul Gibbs is an independent filmmaker and health care activist who lives in West Valley City with his wife and two sons. His views on health care and politics can be found at entitledtolife.net, and on the podcast “Entitled to Life”, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other carriers.