The images on my TV from the siege of the American Capital building on January 6th, 2021 are ones that I thought I would only see in some dystopian version of the world from a novel.
I’m sure that some of the people in that crowd were simply carried away in the moment and really intended nothing but to be present peacefully, but it was obvious that more than a few arrived with the tool necessary to do great damage.
Thus far, five people have lost their lives.
I’ve tried really hard, but I cannot discern what message these people are trying to send to us. What kind of America do they envision? Why do they feel compelled to take up arms and resort to sedition and treason? What do they think they are protecting?
I look around at my family, many of them profess to be conservative and Christian. They live unremarkable lives, have backyard bar-b-ques, go to church on Sunday and shopping at the local supermarket. My family, like many other conservative and Christian families is either rural, or in the case of many of the younger ones, suburban. I struggle to recall any of our family who are “big city” people.
While I often feel like the family outcast because of my sexual orientation, it is also that I am perceived by most of them as being “liberal.”
It is only the past couple of years that I have heard the term “liberal” used by many people, including my family, in the same way they would use one of the seven words you used to not be able to say on TV or print in a newspaper.
In the circle of conservatives that make up the majority of my family, the thing I most often hear is that they are afraid that their guns will be taken from them. More than one person in my immediate family have enough guns in their homes to supply smaller militias. More than one person in my immediate family are nearly always armed, and even the women have concealed carry permits. Their purses are heavy for a reason.
I don’t begrudge them their guns, but I wonder how they can sit at dinner and watch the news of yet another mass shooting at a school that takes the lives of dozens of children and not wonder that perhaps we do need to do something to make it harder for some people to get assault weapons.
Some of my family display confederate memorabilia, usually a flag, mostly discreetly. In the insurrection we witnessed on January 6th, at least one person proudly carried a Confederate flag into the United States Capital. I’m not sure I understand the message that was being sent.
It has been reported that among the invading horde were people who were known to be White Supremacists. Does that mean that the Conservative Christian right movement wants us to return to an era of Jim Crow? Should we try to return to the days where people of color stayed on their side of the tracks? I struggle to see the message these people are wanting us to hear.
Are these people blind? Look around us. The white, blond, blue-eyed average American boy never was anything but a myth. We are a country that has gradually joined the rest of the planet and become, for the most part, brown.
We have always been a country that allowed the poor and downtrodden to enter. In my family, the first immigrant was one John Powell who landed in Virginia in 1609. I can’t be 100% certain, but I’m pretty willing to bet that he did not have a passport.
When Johann Georg Schleicher got off the ship in Philadelphia that chilly day in March of 1737 and had his name changed to John Sliger, I’m quite sure that he also had no passport. His multi-year flight from religious wars in the Rhineland middle-Roman empire took him and his family from the border between France and Germany to England, then to Amsterdam and finally on to the New World, where they could live a life free from troops taking their crops and livestock every other year.
How many of us take great pride in our Irish or Italian or Polish heritage? Those ancestors of ours came to this country as immigrants, seeking a better place, their eyes on the upraised arm of our Statue of Liberty and believing in their hearts that the message inscribed on her base of “..bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” was written specifically with them in mind. They came here with hope.
Yet, over the past four years, our country has begun a vast wall to keep out those huddled masses and our message to the world is increasingly one of isolation. We no longer have room we say, for those who drag their starving children across a thousand miles, just for the hope of something better.
Why does the thought of me marrying a man drive some people to a frenzy? What right of theirs am I trampling? Why does the thought of a young starving mother with a child coming across the border to work at a motel or to pick vegetables create such vitriol and anger?
I believe that everyone should do the best they can to provide for themselves. I believe that everyone should pay their fair share. I believe everyone should carry their portion of the common burden if they can. I believe that everyone should be left alone to live their life as best they can, with as little interference from the government as possible.
But, I also believe that we should allow no one to go hungry just because they can’t afford a meal. I don’t believe we should allow anyone to be homeless and live on the street. I don’t believe we should allow large wealthy corporations to rape and pillage our resources for their own financial benefit at the expense of the common good. We should have laws that regulate our water and air, and set aside parts of our landscape to remain as natural as possible.
I believe that government can be good and of the people and by the people and for the people as long as we are still willing to sit down with each other and work out our differences in a civil manner.
But, as it now stands, I wonder if we have witnessed our own beginning of the end?