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January 24, 2021

Between Outrage and Fear: Is this Who we Are?

Among the many lines repeated during the Biden-Harris campaign Build Back Better and Battling For the Soul of America is the one he frequently uttered when violence and threats of violence occurred: “This is not who we are.”

Each time, I would shake my head sadly and think, this is who some of us are and who our country has always been.

From stealing land from native tribes to the enslavement of African people, from Jim Crow laws to the more recent incidents of police brutality—America is not always a shining example of the words of The Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal.

When I heard those words as a child in elementary school, my thought was, “What about women? What about ‘colored people?'” (the term used back in the 1960s when I was growing up).

When I was a year and a half old, my parents, grandmother, and I moved from a multiracial neighborhood in Philadelphia to Willingboro, NJ.

It was one of the three Levittown communities (PA and NY were the other two). It has been well documented that the builder had racist ideologies and that the first Black family had to sue in order to move in. By the time my family moved there, the population had evolved and became more integrated. I grew up with friends from many backgrounds. My parents taught my sister and me acceptance of all without regard to the artificial separation by skin hue. As an adult, I have come to understand that being colorblind doesn’t honor diversity, and it minimizes the social injustices that people of color (POC) experience.

In my current location of Bucks County, PA, while there is diversity and a wellspring of social justice activities, there are still frighteningly vocal and visual examples of hatred toward the other. A young woman made public the racist slurs scrawled in her yearbook a few years earlier, prompting her to create “Hey, we gotta talk” to discuss the blight of bigotry.

In the wake of the horrific assault on the Capitol Building on January 6th, numerous arrests have been made of folks who claimed they were exercising their first amendment rights. What they were doing was accepting the words of an outgoing president whose lies fueled the fire of their rage. Many who were present have expressed that they didn’t want to lose their voice or rights, which could be translated to not wanting to lose their alleged superior status.

Fear of immigrants, fear of POC, fear of anyone who didn’t vote as they did were part of the match that was lit by the incendiary words of the president in a rally earlier that day.

“And after this, we’re going to walk down there, and I’ll be there with you, we’re going to walk down…to the Capitol, and we are going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women. And we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them. Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong. We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved. Our country has had enough. We’re not going to take it anymore.” ~ Donald Trump on January 6, 2021.

After delivering his speech, he wasn’t there leading the parade with his followers. He hightailed it back to the White House, where he was said to be delighted as blood was shed and the confirmation of Joe Biden was temporarily interrupted. I’m wondering why no one was heard to question why he wasn’t present as he said he would be. Perhaps they had gotten so accustomed to his lies that they figured, what’s one more?

When I watch the newscasts that describe the events of January 6th, I toggle back and forth between outrage and fear. When I see the videos and photos, I see ants swarming the grounds and Capitol building. They bought a lie, lock, stock, and barrel and were willing to murder to pledge allegiance, not to a flag or the Constitution but to a man who has proven time and time and time again that he is not worthy of loyalty.

I think about the families and communities these violent protestors, insurrectionists, terrorists returned home to. How do they explain to their children that they broke the law?

Hard to imagine that these kids aren’t watching the coverage. Hard to imagine that their friends aren’t talking about it. In my mind, if they were there, even if they didn’t cross the line, they were still supporting the insurrection. The lawmakers whose lives were in danger have the responsibility to level consequences on the man who lit the match that started the conflagration.

There is no justification for this. I pray every day for the healing of America. I pray every day for the safety of president Biden and vice-president Harris. And yes, I even pray for the outgoing president since he is a deeply troubled soul who terrorized our country.

In my little town of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, which is the county seat, there have been rallies, vigils, and peaceful protests in the past four years. In the hellacious year of 2020, there was cause for gathering to protest the murder of George Floyd, to honor the life of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and speak out against the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to hurriedly replace her.

There were campaign rallies with competing voices at the intersection of State and Main and at the courthouse. I chose not to attend, as I was taking extra precautions due to COVID-19. Instead, I donated to various campaigns, attended online events, wrote numerous articles, and took part in a Ridin’ With Biden rally.

The cardboard placard still sits on my dashboard and will, through the Inauguration, as does my lawn sign next to my American flag. I decided to reclaim its meaning since it has been disgraced. It was used as a weapon to beat a police officer and replaced with a Trump flag on the balcony of the Capitol Building. Protestors wrapped themselves in it.

In my area, months after Joe Biden’s win, there are still visible signs of resistance to that reality. Massive Trump signs and flags still adorn houses, trees, walls, pickup trucks, and in one case, a steel gate across a driveway. The feeling I get is one of in your face intimidation. Not sure anyone would be intimidated by Biden signs and flags.

I watched, with tears of rage and deep sadness, the assaults on DC Police officers Officer Hodges, crushed in a door, Officer Fanone, wrestled to the ground with his protective gear stripped off of him and his gun nearly taken from him, with the cry, “Let’s kill him with his own gun.” What stopped the onslaught was that he called out that he had children. Hearing that, some ferried him out of harm’s way. As he was being interviewed, he said his response was a combination of thank you and f-you—understandable. One of their numbers, Officer Sicknick met his end when murdered with a fire extinguisher.

A hero emerged as Officer Eugene Goodman led assailants away from the Senate chambers, and within moments of encountering vice president Mike Pence. While this was happening, the outgoing President didn’t express concern for his colleagues, and afterward, the vice president didn’t hold his boss accountable for inviting the assailants to the Capitol with his incendiary words.

What happened to the law and order and Blue Lives Matter people?

On the eve of MLK Day, I wondered what Martin would have to say about what is happening in the country. This is what he did say before his voice was silenced by hatred:

“Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.”

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”

“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”

He would likely share the sentiments of Philadelphia based journalist Annette John-Hall:

“The assault on our democracy was a culmination of what the supremacists see as a larger threat: the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, the first Black, Asian, and female vice president. It was an election decided, in large part, by Black voters, turning out in large cities with Black populations, such as Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Detroit, and Atlanta. Not coincidentally, those were the cities where Trump sought to strip electoral votes from.”

More than a week later, with heightened security in DC and capitals of all 50 states, there are some who are still not chastened and are more defiant and determined to wreak even more death and destruction.

I ponder the words of one of my favorite movies that I watched yesterday, called The American President.

As I sat on the edge of the couch, the better to immerse myself into a world where the White House is populated by decent, caring employees of the people, I found myself nodding in agreement.

A telling conversation happens between Andrew Sheperd (played by Michael Douglas) and Lewis Rothschild (played by Michael J. Fox) speaks volumes about our current situation.

Lewis Rothschild [in the Oval Office]: “You have a deeper love of this country than any man I’ve ever known. And I want to know what it says to you that in the past seven weeks, 59 percent of Americans have begun to question your patriotism.”

President Andrew Shepherd: “Look, if the people want to listen to…”

Lewis Rothschild: “They don’t have a choice! Bob Rumson is the only one doing the talking! People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They’re so thirsty for it they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.”

President Andrew Shepherd: “Lewis, we’ve had presidents who were beloved, who couldn’t find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. People don’t drink the sand because they’re thirsty. They drink the sand because they don’t know the difference.”

It seems those who steadfastly support the horror show of an outgoing president are drinking the Kool-Aid with a sand chaser.

To our new President Joe Biden, may your vision for an inclusive America be who we can become, sooner rather than later. May we listen to the better angels of our nature.

~

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