Inhale and exhale. That is the only life’s labor many of us have been able to manage lately. On Jan. 6, the world watched a mostly white crowd protest the results of the presidential election. They broke windows at the U.S. Capitol with the intention of stopping representatives who were certifying the election. To some, it looked like the fall of democracy. To others, it looked like democracy in action. To me, it looked like, in the words of Ani DiFranco, “they keep pounding their fists on reality as if it will break.” Most weeks for the recommendations, I list things to watch, read, eat, drink, and listen to.
This weekend, I recommend that you get outside, go for a walk and reconsider some things. (I know for some who are living with disabilities or who live in areas with harsh winters, getting outside can be difficult this time of year. But, even if you can only walk to your mailbox, that inhale/exhale is incredibly centering.) We must return to center. However, in order to do so, we must acknowledge what drove people out of their homes in the middle of a D.C. winter to begin with. What I saw was a lethal combination of fear, propaganda and entitlement.
To add insult to injury, some ignorant people started comparing this alt-right riot– and others like it, such as the ones in Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan and California last year– to Black Lives Matter demonstrations. This is misguided.Reasons matter. Intentions matter.
Last spring and summer, Black Lives Matter activists marched for an end to state sanctioned violence against Black people. The people who stormed the Capitol did so because a billionaire promised to make them rich in exchange for their loyalty and they desperately needed him to fulfill that promise. No one was threatening their lives– not even the police officer they beat to death with a fire extinguisher. God bless his family.
I truly loathe the fact that the democratic party made the Black Lives Matter Movement a political talking point for their elections. BLM is not a political issue to me. It is a matter of humanistic value. People should not be criminalized for their skin complexion. All lives are included in Black lives, because if we value those who have been marginalized, then of course everyone else is included.
There were plenty of reasons to protest at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, such as the gridlock in Congress, cuts to public education, the slow rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, that joke of a stimulus package, the state of our roads and highways, tax cuts for billionaires, the incestuous nature of who is granted government contracts, hydrofracking, misuse of taxpayer dollars, child separation at the border, etc. etc. etc. Congress has been failing us all century, so there are plenty of reasons to be mad, but the violence is unacceptable.
Then, when you see people waving Confederate flags and holding up racist hand signals, you know what it is. It wasn’t about thinking the election was rigged. It was about not wanting to breathe the same air as Black and Brown people. It was about not wanting a Black woman to be Vice President of the United States.
It was about the fact that the POTUS used corporate culture tactics of loyalty and sacrifice in exchange for promotion on half of the country. Unfortunately, they didn’t realize the ugly truth: Most people who work corporate jobs advance by leaving their existing company and going to a new one, not by remaining loyal to the one they started with. Talk about a buried lede.
And as an aside, I truly become furious when I think about the fact that $600 is the equivalent of a roundtrip plane ticket and a night in a D.C. hotel room. Can you imagine giving someone a free vacation to tear up your stuff? I truly cannot.
It is time for us to all reflect and reconsider whether democracy is what we want, and if so, who is included in it? Do we want to solve the problems, or be right about the solutions? Furthermore, will we choose people over profit? I know what you’re thinking– people shouldn’t have to choose between making a good living and valuing humanity. I agree. However, here is where we are, and at the moment, it seems that we have chosen scarcity and misanthropy.
There is an order of operations in the divine universe: Acknowledge, Apologize, Atone. In this country, we like to push people toward healing without acknowledging any wrongdoing, asking for forgiveness for transgressions and then allowing those who have been wronged to decide what restitution looks like for them. After the three A’s have happened, then healing can start. The wrong can not decide what is reparative for the wronged. But by all means, keep trying.
So, where do we go from here? Here’s what I wrote four years ago when the term alternative facts first crept into the vernacular:
We start with a recommitment to the truth, no matter how much it disturbs our perceptions. We start by bringing back humanistic value and truly believing that every human life matters. We start by seeking out information on our own and not believing only what we are fed. We commit ourselves to questioning why someone else’s perception disturbs our own. And most of all, we commit to valuing discernment (which is a measure of trust) over doubt (which is a measure of distrust). If we become a discerning public, instead of a doubtful public, we hold the power. Then, we can start a fruitful discussion about policy, instead of a flailing discussion about perception.
We are all converting oxygen into carbon dioxide and sharing the same air. You can have a miracle or a grievance, but you can’t have both. Which do you choose?