Good Bye, Forgiveness

Thirty years ago my husband brought home a virus. We didn’t yet know COVID but we knew HIV. We’d seen people die of AIDS, and he had the virus. He’d infected me. When I learned that my pre-school sons weren’t infected, my anger settled. I started down the long road to forgiveness. Along the way, I helped Brian die, raised the boys and survived the plague (and, later, cancer) thanks to science.

Which, improbably, brings me to Donald Trump.

Trump’s comic lies about crowd size at his inaugural have metastasized into deadly deceits. His mishandling of truth has left us with, so far, 200,000 dead Americans. His love of white privilege and systemic injustice are paid for with Black lives. Immigrant children are segregated and caged. The earth smolders as the truth of science collides with the lies of Trump.

I worked in the Gerald Ford White House. He was a decent man, a father figure for me. He controversially pardoned his predecessor believing it was the path to healing the divided nation. By contrast, Trump bets his presidential future on splitting the nation into armed camps separated and inspired by mutual hatreds. The man loves hate.

In a half-dozen books and a thousand speeches I’ve said I’ll love those unloved by others. I’ll hold the dying man rejected by his family. I’ll care for the woman who detests me. I’ll forgive those beyond forgiveness. Then came Trump. And there went my proclaimed self-image.

We don’t forgive evil while it’s still brutalizing us or others. Forgiveness comes later, when the evil is stopped. This crook is still in the act of stealing my granddaughter’s future, hauling away her certainty about truth, hope, compassion, patriotism and any standard of decency. He’s not yet been stopped, so it’s too early for forgiveness.

But suppose he’s un-elected in November. Will I still fume at the mask-less faces of his fans and rage at their allegiance to a man who is, plainly and irredeemably, evil? Who will I be when this is over? Will I ever let go of my own sizzling fury?

This is who I want to be: Nelson Mandela, inviting his South African prison guard to his presidential inaugural and seating him in a place of honor. Corrie ten Boom not only forgiving her concentration camp guard but holding him as he wept. The families in Charleston who, grieving loved ones gunned down as they prayed, reached out to the shooter with compassion.

I hadn’t imagined that pathetic Donald Trump could take from me the ability to forgive an irresponsible husband or a friend’s political choice. The lessons I’ve learned of forgiveness should endure one very bad president. But I fear a future in which the nation remains defined by “alternative truths” and separated by hate, including mine.

We’re going to need science to get out of our predicaments. And, then, we’re going to need forgiveness so we can live together. At the moment, I have to say it’s not looking good for science. Or much better for forgiveness.




Speaker, artist and author. Activist calling for courage, compassion and integrity. Mom/Grandma. 1st Female White House Advanceman. Keynoted ’92 RNC.

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Mary Fisher

Mary Fisher

Speaker, artist and author. Activist calling for courage, compassion and integrity. Mom/Grandma. 1st Female White House Advanceman. Keynoted ’92 RNC.

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