This week we witnessed an attack on our nation’s capital by a misguided and ignorant mob, committed to the usurpation of our presidential election, spurred on by a man whose appetite for power and adulation knows no bounds, a modern-day Nero who tweeted while Washington burned. One branch of our government attacked another branch using ruthless force, violence, and coercion. For the first time since the War of 1812, our nation’s Capitol Building, the People’s House, was attacked, looted, and vandalized. Though this time not by enemies across the sea, but by our neighbors, incited to riot by a would-be dictator.
I am reminded this week of the power of words—the power to heal, and unfortunately, the power to destroy. When I was a teenager, I went away for a summer to work at a national park with 39 other teenagers from around the state. One of the boys was a bit different and soon became the target of ridicule and abuse. Midway through the summer, we went home for a long weekend, then returned to camp on Monday morning, except for that boy, who, unable to bear more derision, took his life rather than return to camp. Words have power. Lies kill. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. This past Wednesday, lies killed five. The writer of Proverbs said it plainly. “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
A sword was thrust into the heart of our nation this week. It remains to be seen whether this wound will prove fatal. Our nation remains in intensive care, wounded by those who sought to overthrow it, and now attended by those committed to its recovery, though the damage inflicted might be too significant to repair. Today we sit by our nation’s bedside, awaiting a word of hope and healing, though for as long as the name of Donald Trump is venerated by chanting mobs, as long as his selfish and cancerous ideology still metastasizes, as long as it grows unchecked and unchallenged, America is at risk.
Ironically, this attack was carried out by those who champion law and order, instigated by the same people who condemned the peaceful protests of people of color even as they cheered on a man whose lawless and chaotic governance ended with a police officer being beaten to death by Trumpian thugs with a fire extinguisher in the halls of the People’s House. We’ll have no more disingenuous calls for law and order from them, no more false veneration of the rule of law, or backing the blue, no more sanctimonious platitudes about American greatness even as they sought to overturn the very democracy key to America’s greatness. Let them clamor all they want about their love of democracy, we know better. In their flags celebrating the Confederacy, in their shirts honoring Auschwitz, in their removal of the American flag to fly the flag of Trump, in the stench of urine and feces they left behind, we saw them for what they are—white supremacists, anti-Semites, coarse and cruel lackeys to a man who lacks every noble and virtuous impulse or instinct.
There are those now finally discovering their conscience and speaking up, and while I welcome that, I can’t help but wonder why they had not a word to say against child separation, misogyny, sexual abuse, and racism. On Thursday, a man told me he had never been a fan of Trump, though just last summer he was photographed waving a Trump flag at a demonstration. I can forgive that man, for I too, in critical moments, have been foolish. Though I can’t help but wonder what took him so long to see what others saw so clearly from the start—that a presidential campaign birthed in a golden palace built on fraud and hate would inevitably contaminate the hallowed halls of American democracy. How could everyone not see that? How could everyone not know that when lies and hate are given free reign, they will consume any and all in their path.
The next time we are tempted to prize power over principle, and wealth over character, let us remember January 6, 2021. Let every book ever written of this president and his wretched reign remind future Americans of the sad day the head of America’s executive branch waged war on its legislative branch, our branch, the People’s House, our Senators, our Representatives, our voices, our votes, our hopes and dreams for a more perfect union. From this day forward, let the name Trump never be mentioned without also declaring that this man betrayed the very Constitution he had pledged to preserve, protect, and defend.
Where do we go from here, when so many Americans have fallen sway to his lies, some of them our dearest neighbors and friends? We must commit ourselves anew to speaking the truth with love. What is love, but our commitment to the growth of the beloved. So to those who refuse to see what has been emphatically clear to others, we commit ourselves anew to your growth in compassion, your growth in wisdom, your growth in maturity, your growth in truth.
“The best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth,” Senator Mitt Romney wisely said. And in so saying gave America her marching orders—to battle tyranny and lies with democracy, decency, and truth, to never again entrust with governance those who value personal gain over public good, and to never again entrust with governance those who appeal to our worst instincts and not our best.
There is no finer barometer of a nation’s well-being than its commitment to democracy, decency, and truth. For the past four years we have witnessed an attack on all three. Now we must keep a faithful watch, working to ensure those virtues once again reign supreme in our beloved land.