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Vengeance? No. Consequences? Yes. How to handle the post-Trump era

Vengeance? No. Consequences? Yes. How to handle the post-Trump era

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Much has been written about the art, ethics and prudence of revenge.

In addition to being a dish best served cold, allegedly, the Bible is prolific on the matter. God himself seems rather vengeful at times — hello, the 10 plagues? — while Matthew says to turn the other cheek.

Around 1754 B.C., Hammurabi codified the "eye for an eye" approach, and in 1844 A.D., Edmond Dantes learned in "The Count of Monte Cristo" that a life devoted to revenge was ultimately unsatisfying.

In a season two episode of "Seinfeld," aptly titled "The Revenge," Jerry Seinfeld tells George Costanza, "The best revenge is living well." George dismissively scoffs, "There's no chance of that."

The topic of revenge now swirls in the political ether in the wake of Joe Biden's victory over Donald Trump. 

One healthy way to see it: The election was the revenge mechanism and Trump and his voters will now suffer the consequences. 

Others say that simply isn't good enough. 

Something called the Trump Accountability Project has emerged, promising to economically punish people who worked on Trump's campaign, his federal government and helped fund him.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez clumsily imagined an "archive," of "Trump sycophants," for whom the punishment is presumably some sort of social cancellation. If we've learned anything from the past decade it's that cancel culture is corrosive and cannibalizing and something even prominent liberals, like Barack Obama, are increasingly warning against.

Others on Twitter are just happy to turn the MAGA schadenfreude of the Trump administration back on them — meeting four years of "owning the libs" with drinking "MAGA tears."

Enemies lists and dumb Twitter memes aren't justice.

There's a difference between revenge and consequences, and for Trump and his enablers, there should be myriad of the latter.

President-elect Biden will be pressured to make Trump pay for all kinds of bad policies the way President Obama was pressured to make George W. Bush and his supporters pay for the Iraq War, and other administrations were pressured to punish Watergate, Iran-Contra and Vietnam.

From Trump's inhumane child separation policy to less formal policies of cronyism and nepotism, to his own potential criminal behavior, these all bear scrutiny and, where laws may have been broken, punishment.

For his part, Biden wants to leave that to state officials and his attorney general, a move that in itself seeks to remedy one of the most damaging features of the Trump administration, its corruption of the Justice Department.

According to a new report this week, Biden privately told advisers he doesn't want his presidency consumed by Trump investigations, fearing that would alienate Trump voters and inhibit his ability to focus on COVID-19, the economy and other hardships.

Whether Democrats in Congress agree with Biden or not remains to be seen, but Trump is unlikely to leave office completely unscathed. And he shouldn't.

People who supported Trump have just as much a right to their livelihoods, their freedom and their safety as anyone else. Shouting them down at restaurants, getting them fired or shaming them on social media is not only wrong, it will likely lead to the creation of more Trumps somewhere in the near future.

We can, however, punish people for their actions. When it comes to the maskless hordes of Trump supporters endangering our lives just to own the libs, those actions are the greatest immediate threat to all of our safety and freedom, including theirs. Just as we fine speeders and reckless drivers, a refusal to follow public health guidelines should be punished.

But if you want revenge on Trump supporters for cheering on Trump's ugly, nativist, racist, sexist, bigoted, xenophobic ideas, you're probably not going to get it. While we're not going to impose Hammurabi's Code, we needn't keep turning the other cheek to Trumpism either. And we needn't seek revenge to achieve real, meaningful consequences.

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