This Is Who We Are
I woke up last Tuesday morning without a clear idea of what to write last week’s article about and, noticing how packed my schedule was – my doing, of course – it became clear that stuffing more into the day wasn’t going to do my creative process much good…
I called it and gave myself the gift of an extended holiday break from writing.
Then, of course, Wednesday in the USA happened.
I wanna make something very, very clear…
After the seditious mess at the Capitol was mopped up enough to allow for the business of certifying the Electoral College votes to continue, as floor speeches were being made, more than a few Senators uttered some variant of “this is not who we are.”
Earlier, in a speech of his own, Joe Biden suggested the same.
The problem, of course, is that this is precisely who we are: A systemically racist, more than occasionally anti-Semitic, violent, xenophobic, entitled white supremacist culture with a seriously warped sense of self-importance.
The ugly creature that is our current state of affairs – that unspeakable darkness, invisible (or not) for so long, that lives in the heart of our collective American Exceptional Identity – did not hatch out of thin air the day 45 was elected – nor will it magically vanish the day he departs.
Until we are willing to stand before the mirror and look ourselves in the eye – to the level of each and every White American adult coming to terms with the hard, nasty truth that is our hateful, violent dark side – no amount of book-clubbing, praying, feel-bad crocodile tears or dressing in sack cloth and sitting in ashes will make the populist’s pablum of outright lies and mob-frothing, evidence-free “stop the steal” conspiracy theories disappear.
And yeah, if you’re a White American who thinks what I’m saying somehow doesn’t apply to you personally – it is indeed you (and me, by the way) I’m speaking to – get thee to the mirror but quick.
And if you’re still a supporter of 45 and think that he’s been given the shaft, that there’s some credence to the notion that the election was stolen or that there’s really a Q out there that speaks mysterious truths in dark, deep corners of the web, then…
The demographics of the Capitol insurrection tell a vivid story of racist roots and tendrils reaching well beyond the events of January 6, 2021. They ring back to the founding of the nation – inclusive of the developmental roles (downplayed from a historical education point of view) played by Black slaves and the genocide and forced migration of Native Americans – echoed through the Civil War, amplified by the end of Reconstruction and the seemingly endless, somatic reverberation of Jim Crow…
Yes – somatic…
As in “having to do with the body.”
If one really looks and pays close attention, the facts of our collective history are not unlike taking a punch to the gut.
If you think I’m suggesting we are not, as a nation, mostly “good people” – that we need to be shaming ourselves in some way, I am not.
The challenge, however, is that perfectly good people can easily convince themselves that, because they are “good,” they needn’t use their voices or get their hands dirty…
I’m strongly suggesting that it’s time for us to stop pretending we’re cooler, smarter, more spiritual or otherwise better than an angry band of White Supremacists storming the Capitol…
Because, no kidding, they are part of our American body.
They are us.
It’s high time we step into a state of Conscious Adulthood based on observing and recognizing facts, an understanding and pursuit of interdependence, the willingness to look at our own history with an unflinching eye – and the courage to feel all of it.
Even though that means we’ll be experiencing more than a few very uncomfortable emotions and the physical sensations that go along with them.
At the risk of being redundant, let me put it this way: If we are ever to become whole as a nation, we need to know and embrace the entirety of our collective history – and the impact of that history – including the ways in which our darker chapters continue to play in endless oppressive feedback loops within marginalized groups and communities…
They, too, are part of our collective body.
They are us.
So where to start?
Be in conversation.
Set and maintain your own boundaries, particularly those that pertain to taking in information that’s less than provably accurate, real and true.
Steer clear of the simple seduction of conspiracy theories.
Write your Senators and folks in Congress – and if they supported the objections that helped fuel the events of January 6, write them AND write about them in letters to your local media. (Note that our Congressional Delegate, Elise Stefanik, did just that – and I will be writing…)
Outside of the above and grabbing some history books and/or visiting a few legitimate history websites, I don’t know where else to tell you to start.
I do know that – if our democracy is going to make it out of this historical moment intact – not starting is not an option.