Wednesday happened. People stormed our U.S. Capitol. The Confederate flag was flown in lieu of Old Glory, the flag I have always known to represent our country.

Hate did what no enemy has been able to do. Democrats and Republicans cowered together in terror, in fear of their lives in the halls they work in daily to serve us.

The horror on the faces of the Capitol Police as they knew their reality and how outnumbered they were. The horror in our hearts as we watched as the symbol of freedom known round the world was invaded by its own citizens.

Another Civil War, is that what we really want? I don’t think so. The numbers were big but not massive. The hate was raw but so offensive it did something that hasn’t been done in four years, it united us. In our shock from Vice-President Pence to Senate Majority Leader McConnell there was a resolve that happened, which shocked the directors of the worst guerrilla theatre I have ever seen.

In my lifetime I did not expect to see this. I kept thinking of the flight in Pennsylvania on 9/11 in which our citizens bravely took the plane down, sacrificing their lives to save the Capitol. They knew the cost.

The rest of the world is reeling with us as we try to make sense of this. How did we get here? This is 2021, the symbol of the Civil War (the Confederate Flag) is a symbol that is 160 years old and it represents the horror this nation went through over slavery. Yet it flew in the Capitol Building through insurgents for the first time in our history.

The saddest part of all that is how far we haven’t come in 160 years. The best of that day is the unity that happened afterward. The cynic wants to believe too little too late, but in reality, change obviously isn’t easy and it takes a long time.

Democrats and Republicans need to regroup and understand some basic principles: We are Americans and human beings first; second, a free and participating citizenry meant to be civil and fluid; third, and finally, a part of something greater than any one ideology.

A police officer was injured and died later that day. Now a second has died from injuries. The first one, a veteran who had served this country only to lose his life not by a sworn enemy but a fellow citizen.

The division is ours to resolve. We all have the right to believe and to gather. We do not have the right to destroy, injure, or kill.

We need to reach deep in our hearts and study the words we listen to in our collective churches on Sunday. Would intense hatred be what Jesus would want? I don’t think so. Hate in your heart hardens it and makes it easier to forget the responsibility we have as human beings each to the other.

As Americans we have the responsibility to protect and defend our Constitution and I want to applaud both Indiana senators for changing their positions and representing that Constitution in a real way. I listened as Sen. Young tried to speak to some of the insurgents, urging them to listen as they shouted at him; I admired his courage, and it could have gotten uglier than it did. He pleaded with them because he felt it his duty to uphold what he had promised to God that he would protect. I cannot imagine he thought he would ever be in that position.

How we got here is almost inconsequential. Where we go from here is the real issue. Will we regroup and rebuild? Will we hold people truly accountable for their actions that day? Will we begin to think before we act and weigh all the options available in life reasoned people do? Will we elect leaders and not self-serving, pompous men and women who think first of their wallets and second of their needs and somewhere down the line our country?

What do we want to look like? A country that moves together with a common goal of democracy and decency for all its citizens no matter their race, their gender, who they love, or what they look like? We have some serious soul-searching to do. The division is ours to resolve. We need to put our collective conscience together to find a solution and acknowledge the very premise of who we are.

Our founding fathers all shook at the same time from their graves on Wednesday. Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Franklin Roosevelt, Ike Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan all wept. No matter the circumstances in our history, America was always first with these leaders. No matter the political party, America was first.

It is time to be Americans first and vote as Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and Independents, but vote for leaders who are experienced, wise, and learned.

Washington and the USA are necessary in the world in which we are now only viewed as a confused and angry people. We have so much to lose on the world stage and on our own stage.

We need to be strong, we need to be respectful, and we need to move forward with a new resolve to be a United States of America, not a divided State of America.

Barbara Anderson is a local human rights activist. Contact her at barbanderson_1@yahoo.com.

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