An Oath to our Country
Every American should be reeling from the events of Wednesday, January 6, 2021. The institutions that support our democracy, those we’ve taken for granted, were in peril. Shock waves reverberated throughout the world. We’re expected to be a model of stability in democratic processes; instead we had an insurgency. A mob breached the Capitol building intent on subverting the Congressional vote to certify the results of a lawfully conducted election. The assault, while foiled, was far too close for comfort. I pray you cried, “Never again!”
After what had to have been a terrifying lockdown for Congress, an alarming number of House and Senate members continued to demand examination of the legitimacy of states’ elections and vote tallies, regardless of the recounts and certification. Isn’t that sedition? These are people who swore to uphold the Constitution, some for the very first time only days before. What reckoning occurs is yet to be seen, but there must be consequences for willfully continuing the charade of a stolen election.
There are citizens who don’t understand why what happened is so egregious. This comes as no surprise after a president who has normalized and anesthetized us to outrageous behavior. Welcome to Alice’s rabbit hole, where alternate facts and conspiracies are truth, repeated lies are canon. Those who applauded the storming of the Capitol don’t know the difference between lawful protest, unlawful riot, and an outright insurrection determined to overturn an election. They missed a civics lesson: we vote, a winner is declared and acknowledged, then there is a peaceful transition of power. Your candidate can lose and that doesn’t make it a rigged election. Is an inability to accept defeat the direct result of kids receiving a trophy just for showing up? Trump’s months-long battle cry to preemptively sow doubt about the most secure election in our history assured his supporters would believe they were cheated if he lost. Well, they’ve been duped all right, but not by the election results.
In my book, Work Jerks: How to Deal with Difficult Bosses and Colleagues, I’ve written about the narcissist and how dangerous they are in any leadership position. A narcissist POTUS, however, is catastrophic. Life-long enabling, a lack of consequences for misbehavior, and his specific personality disorder has created a man who has tested the country’s decency and democracy. Of course, he didn’t do it singlehandedly. We have four-hundred-year old fractures that aren’t close to mended; Trump courted white supremacists and he has racism to thank for carrying him every inch of the way. He surrounded himself with sycophants who were the “best ever”—until they stopped serving his purpose. Then they were trashed. No one would tell the emperor he has no clothes. Far too many put their trust in a self-styled demigod to save them from a changing world (or pacify whatever wounds they carry). Trump collects and nurtures a never-ending catalog of grievances. His rage will turn on his loyal acolytes, too, when they no longer feed his voracious needs. How devastating will it be for them when they finally comprehend this man is not a savior.
There’s a roster of the power-hungry who aided and abetted the forty-fifth president. We used to wonder, “How did the German people ever allow the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust?” This is how: by following one narcissistic, despotic footstep after another while looking the other way. As WWII recedes further into history, there’s an increasing number who believe the Holocaust was a hoax. Today, there are patients who believe COVID doesn’t exist—even as they take their last breath. Conspiracy theorists think 375,000 (and counting) virus deaths in the US are fiction. Too many believe a dystopian plotline in which vaccines are designed to control the people. These are only a few fabrications from an exhaustive list.
We have become unwitting collaborators in the erosion of our democracy when we’re so easily led. Almost seventy percent of adults in this country get their news from social media. The algorithms assure your feed displays more of the same; you needn’t be bothered by anything contradicting your beliefs. If you’re in the thirty percent who look for information beyond social media, you’ll find news channels that cater to your biases: liberal, conservative, conspiracy theory. People don’t fact check; if it’s broadcast or on the internet it must be true. Most of what’s out there is infotainment. If you want balanced reporting, you have to actively seek it. Too many of us have slipped into a haze of lazy thinking. We should hold ourselves and each other responsible to some measure of informed citizenry.
One commentator said 2020 was like an X-ray that showed us the breaks in our country. Early 2021 continues with more revelations of hurt and disease. Perhaps that’s been Trump’s role all along, to show us ourselves in a mirror. It is impossible to transform what we don’t see or acknowledge. It takes courage to face what needs to be done to rebuild and maintain our beloved democracy. Last Wednesday showed us it can’t be taken for granted.
Leadership from President-elect Biden is hugely important, and he has a monumental set of fubar situations to handle. It’s up to us to change the tenor of the country by offering healing, not further division. It turns out we’re the ones we’ve been waiting for to form the vision and work for a happier and healthier future in our communities. We must demonstrate compassion for our fellow residents. Blasting people with hate has never produced learning or change. As Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Disrespect and contempt got us here, they’re not the solution.
The past four years have made it abundantly clear that what a president says truly matters. The storming of the Capitol incited by POTUS is far more meaningful than a flash in the pan news cycle. I hope you’ll take this moment to reflect on the culmination of events that led to the January 6th travesty.
Here’s my wish list:
· To reclaim our flag as a symbol for all people of the United States.
· To trust government officials will act for the good of the country first and foremost, above any lust for re-election.
· To feel secure that our democracy is safe from domestic terrorists.
· To see the demonstration that we are country that works for all, where we truly are the land of the free.
I hope you want these things, too. Please take care, stay safe, and show everyone we are the home of the brave.