“How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy.”
I remember as a young kid watching cities on fire every night across the country in the ‘60s. It was scary. The civil rights movement had taken a violent turn. I listened to people talk about how bad things were and how America would never be the same. It wasn’t! It was better.
Somewhere in that same decade I watched as streets again were filled with rage and violence. I was getting a little bit older but still somehow was afraid of what was happening. I listened to lots of adults I knew debating and sometimes passionately for or against either side. Again, I heard people from both sides of the debate saying our country would never heal. It did, but the Vietnam War left the scars of battle on America.
Then there were the political assassinations of JFK, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. There was a lot of talk about how we were so divided that we would never heal as a country. While some scars remain — it’s rarely even a topic of dinner conversation anymore.
And then Wednesday happened in Washington, D.C. A protest out of hand. An insurrection. I have heard it referred to in many ways this week.
Again, and even I understand it, talk this week about how we are so divided as a country we can never heal. We will.
What happened this week was an abhorrent thing. People keep comparing it to the summer BLM/ANTIFA street protests. Nowhere near the same thing. Not even close. Apples to Kumquats!
The world understands civil, racial and social strife. All countries save the brutal dictatorships that survive until the next military coup must deal with these issues.
When the world saw a group of people storming the Capitol while the leaders of our country were engaged in their Constitutional duty — it was different. The world was shocked. Our allies were scared and saddened. Our enemies were elated and gleeful.
A free democratic election and a peaceful transfer of power is at the bedrock of everything good about the Republic. There are literally dozens of countries around the world that would accept just that as enough to make their lives better, their countries more stable, and their institutions more solid.
Like many this was so different for me. Watching it brought on a multitude of emotions: fear, disbelief, sadness, and overall, I was so stunned. A group of people overtaking what represents the ultimate monument to freedom and democracy to the world. Since most of our leaders were in that building at the time it occurred, the lack of security and the relative ease with which it happened seemed surreal.
I understand mob mentality.
My hope is that every single member of both aisles of Congress will take some sort of lesson away from this occurrence. The hatred, division and political self-interest needs to play second fiddle to caring about our country. It always starts at the top. What we have had at the top for too many years resulted in this total stain upon our country that will take quite a while to fade away.
President-elect Biden nor any other single person elected to the office of President cannot reverse it. I doubt it will be much better in four years. The emotional wounds and scars are deeply ingrained in all sides.
An even bigger issue is how many people with all their hearts and souls believe there was widespread fraud and corruption and that this election was stolen. I suspect many of them will always believe that and will never again think a free democratic election is fair, unless their side wins.
This is going to be tough. Might take five years, 10 years, or even a generation. But it won’t take forever. We don’t have forever.
If I were a younger person, I would be much more disheartened than I am now. I wouldn’t be nearly as cautiously hopeful. I think the hardest part for many Americans is just what the definition of an American is today. The mosaic is so different than it was when I was a child.
And the real challenge now is that our leaders in Washington must accept and realize that as well. In the year 2045 white voters are projected to be in the minority of voters in this country. The changes that will bring socially, economically and politically will be overwhelming and for many unwelcome. Social change for America has always come with frightening speed, often accompanied by violence, and usually meeting a lot of resistance.
For those of us who have been here before we understand it’s just the growing pains of remaining a free nation. I suspect that the ratio of change versus time will ultimately be decided by acceptance all through our society, but mostly depend upon those we choose to lead.
I sure hope the sorry bunch there for too many years learned a thing or two while hiding under their desks or hunkered down in an office.