I have a new hope for 2021.
The tragedy of the raid on the Capitol by President Trump’s radicalized supporters on January 6 prompted some officials to call it a day of infamy, similar to December 7.
But Christians may also remember it’s Epiphany day. Maybe there’s a bit of epiphany in the aftermath of the horrific scene.
Sometimes we can get lulled into complacency when we see our baser instincts demonstrated in incremental steps. The tweeted insults, demonizations, and fabrications of our President have been tolerated under the guise of freedom of speech, political discourse, and other excuses. Whatever good his administration has done (and it has done good) has often been overshadowed by the relentless divisiveness he engenders.
When, though, all that is played to its logical conclusion, as in the crashing of barricades and attempting to “stop the steal,” it calls for a come-to-Jesus moment. Regardless of party, the obscenity of what happened broke through all our rationalizations, and we had to ask, “Is this really what we’ve come to?”
Something shocking undercut our differences and made us value what does indeed make our country great: a democracy protected by law while guaranteeing freedom and basic rights. When protesters run through the Capitol waving Confederate flags, we all take a step back. We remember how great our nation is and, when attacked this way, we come to its defense.
It was inspiring to see Congress reconvene that night and go about its work with many of our legislators transcending party lines and simply affirming the democratic process, regardless of personal views. It showed a basic decency as well. We acted more civil with each other. Seeing people working together that night for a greater good proved that we’re not enemies to each other but Americans with each other.
In his book, The Wisdom Pattern, Franciscan priest and author Richard Rohr has noted that transformation follows a process: order-disorder-reorder. Our ordered status quo gets shaken. Over the last four years we’ve experienced national disorder thanks to a spirit of rampant polarization infecting our land. When that polarization was brought out in its most obscene fashion on January 6th, maybe it moved us to take a small step toward reordering our lives, individually and as a nation.
I like to idealistically think that some of the Christian values so amenable to our democracy will now have greater expression. Compassion. Empathy. Justice. At the very least, though, I hope the reordering stage will move us to putting the good of the people above the good of a party or a personality. We want to respect the differences we have while working together for a higher cause.
Here’s to hoping that our road ahead will enjoy a backlash of such decency.