“A chain is no stronger than its weakest link.”
-Tomas Reid, Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man
Aside from a few stumbles into the muck this past summer, I am not one to speak up about politics. As soon as you take a stand for or against any given candidate or issue, you lose half your audience, and your value as an objective observer of culture is diminished.
But come on, people. Really??
Just under 20 years ago, I sat with my fellow coworkers watching with abject horror as the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked. I sobbed. We all did.
I felt rattled to the very core of who I am. The loss of life was staggering, obviously. But it was more than that. Mass attacks by terrorists on our own soil was something that we as Americans, perhaps in our arrogance and complacency, thought we were immune to.
I feel the exact same way today as I did on September 11, 2001.
I anticipated violence today. I was braced for it. I have lost sleep for months worrying about January 2021. Despite that fact, that this is really happening, that the U.S. Capitol building — MY CAPITOL BUILDING, paid for by my hard-earned tax dollars — was ransacked, vandalized, and made a mockery of… This is truly, deeply crushing to me. There aren’t even words to express the depth of my anger, nor my heartbreak.
I am an outspoken Independent.
I’ve never been a club joiner. I’ve always liked it better on the outside, looking in. The view is clearer from out here (now more than ever).
I have long said that the two-party system is destroying American democracy. (Please, don’t give me the whole republic vs. democracy shakedown. I’ve addressed this before. It’s both, actually. It’s a democratic republic. So I’m going to call it a democracy, and you can call it a republic, and we’re both right. Get over yourself.)
I have my favorite Presidents.
And I have my favorite ex-Presidents. My favorites are from both parties, and some I like better now that they are retired than I did when they were in office. In classic Sara fashion, I have carefully researched, very specific reasons why each of my favorites hold a special place in my heart.
The pendulum of politics is always swaying back and forth. When it’s all the way to the right, we get a Reagan. When it’s all the way to the left, we get an FDR. When it’s in the middle, we get unrest as the country struggles with the paradigm shift.
Think the Civil War, or the late 60s, rife with conflict and violence — the Vietnam War, the assassinations of two Kennedys, Martin Luther King, and Malcom X, the riots at Kent State, the DNC in Chicago, and elsewhere.
The pendulum is shifting once again.
I am not afraid of this shifting. Since I am adult enough to recognize that there are good people on both sides of the aisle, I’m not overly concerned with the nuts and bolts of any given Presidential platform.
It is Congress and state and local government who write, enact, and enforce the laws. The President’s job is to lay out an agenda, represent us on the international stage, head the military, and bring us all together under one unified flag.
History has proven that our system is highly efficient in balancing itself. A left-leaning President builds up social programs and infrastructure, and a few years later a right-leaning President comes along and pulls taxation and government spending back in line. If you have the maturity to take the long view of history, you know that what really matters is a President’s overall character and competency as a unifying leader of the free world.
As such, as a student of history, I anticipated some drama on the day the 2020 election was certified, even violence. But never, in my wildest nightmares, did I anticipate that terrorists disguised as “protestors” would infiltrate the Capitol building — during the session to count electoral votes, no less.
Yes. They are terrorists.
There is no other word for it. These people scaled the walls of our most sacred government building, burst through the barricaded doors of the Senate and House chambers, and drove our elected representatives into hiding during a joint session of Congress.
They rifled through desks, ransacked files, looted offices and both chambers, and damaged property. MY PROPERTY. And yours, too.
If you are not outraged, terrified, seething, sweating with rage and a deep sense of violation, then you are not only unconscious, but you are part of the problem.
Yet when I went on Facebook this afternoon, it was eerily silent.
Here we’ve been yelling at each other on social media for the better part of a year (okay, let’s be honest, a lot longer than that). And suddenly, the day OUR CAPITOL BUILDING IS BEING ATTACKED, we’re largely silent?! What is wrong with us?
I’d like to think, as my husband does, that people were shocked into speechlessness. My husband is far less cynical than me. It’s one of the reasons I love him, and one of the reasons we balance each other out.
What I see is a Friend’s list (mine) that is predominantly white, middle class, and rural. Yep, I’m calling my people out. Myself very much included.
I don’t think we’re shocked into speechlessness.
In the very least, we are hanging our heads in shame. I know I am.
In the aftermath of 9/11, the lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, Natalie Maines, said at a concert in London that she was ashamed that the President of the United States was from her home state of Texas. In response, she received death threats. She and her band were banned from many country radio stations.
I didn’t agree with what she said, but I was appalled by the way she was treated. I remained a Chicks fan, because I am not a spoiled preschooler throwing a temper tantrum, and because I have a brain of my own. I don’t need anyone else — not a musician, or a politician, or a pastor, or anyone else — to tell me how to think. God gave me a brain, and I use it.
I believe firmly in the rights of free speech guaranteed every American by the 1st Amendment, Natalie Maines’ opinion about a sitting President included. The unease I felt with Ms. Maines’ comment was rooted in the conflict I felt between a profound respect for the Office of the President, and my thoughts about a particular policy of a specific individual holding the Office.
I’ve grown up a lot in the past 20 years (as I suspect has Ms. Maines). I now have the grace to recognize that we all have our tipping point, and the fact that someone else’s happens to be different than mine is a product of their own unique temperament and experiences. Who am I to judge someone else’s conclusions, when I have not lived their life, in their skin?
Little did I know, way back in 2002, that in 2020 I’d reach my own tipping point, and be faced with my own shame for the individual residing in the White House. Because that’s exactly what I’m experiencing… Straight up shame.
Shame on us for letting our system sink to this level.
Shame on us for placing more value on entertainment than our own freedom.
Shame on us for feeling justified in hating someone else. (Don’t tell me you haven’t… I don’t care who you are, if you lived in the U.S. in 2020, you hated on somebody.)
The fact that I did not vote for Donald Trump, and wouldn’t under any circumstances, does not diminish my shame. I began this essay with the Thomas Reid quote, “A chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link.”
When my President fails, I fail.
I don’t get to bow out simply because my guy wasn’t involved. If we can’t figure out, collectively, how to “Make America Great Again,” then America will continue to shrivel and die. The fact that Donald Trump hijacked that phrase for his own personal power grab is simply the sticky sweet ironic frosting atop the dirt cake of modern American politics.
“We are all in this together” isn’t simply a cute little phrase on a t-shirt. It’s a simple fact. If the ship sinks, it doesn’t matter if I was warning about icebergs the whole damn trip. I still freeze to death at the end.
The right to protest is crucial for the health of our democracy.
(Or republic… whatever. I have the floor right now. Sit down and shut up.)
I believe in the right to protest police brutality. I believe in the right to protest against gay marriage. I believe in the right to protest for gay marriage. Against abortion, and for abortion. Certainly, I have my opinions on these subjects. But my opinion in one direction does not cancel out another person’s right to protest to the contrary.
Thusly, I believe in the right to protest the outcome of an election. The Constitution very clearly protects that right.
What is not Constitutionally protected, however, is hypocrisy.
How many times over the past year did we hear people condemn the Black Lives Matter protests? How many times did I hear outrage over the tearing down of statues? Disgust over the burning of police cars and destruction of property?
How many expressed fear of the screaming crowds of angry protestors? The “out of control mobs?”
How many people considered every Black Lives Matter protest a riot, and every protestor a criminal?
I want to know… And I will keep asking these questions…
How is one crowd of people throwing rocks, destroying property, breaking windows, planting bombs, and disrespecting law enforcement considered an angry, rioting mob, but another crowd doing the exact same thing is not?
Is the attack on the U.S. Capitol today just the acts of a few out-of-control extremists, but those who resorted to violence during the Black Lives Matter protests representative of all protestors?
If only for a brief time, 9/11 brought us all together as Americans.
We cried and grieved this heinous attack on our democracy together. Why aren’t we all overwhelmed with grief and fear for our democracy after today’s attack on the U.S. Capitol?
Will you be outraged that the police shot someone during the raid of the Capitol? What sort of mental gymnastics is required in order to justify other police shootings of unarmed criminals (or not even criminals, in some cases), but not this one?
How are the Black Lives Matter protestors unpatriotic, and rioters at the U.S. Capitol patriots?
How is it that the 2020 election was “stolen,” but anyone who expressed displeasure at the outcome of the 2016 election should shut up, quit whining, and accept that their side lost?
I am DONE with this hypocrisy.
Your hypocrisy is cancelled. Grow. Up. Be an American. All of you. If it’s wrong for the left, it’s wrong for the right, and vice versa. Stop pouting. Vote in the next election. Hell, run for office if you feel so strongly about it. But for the love of God and Country, GROW THE HELL UP.
Let me remind you, I’m all for protest.
I’ve written extensively on that subject. I’ve also written extensively on my distaste for partisan politics, and have no allegiance to any political party. I am an outspoken supporter of the 1st Amendment, and I have a full understanding and respect for the 2nd Amendment. I live in Montana. My husband is a gun owner.
I have zero patience for the stalemate of extreme partisans in Washington, D.C. Everyone needs to grow up so the wheels of democracy can turn.
A history lesson…
In September of 1969, seven defendants known as the Chicago Seven were indicted on charges in connection to protests that turned violent at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The charges varied by defendant, but can be summarized as:
· Interstate conspiracy to cross state lines to promote riots and civil disorder.
· Inciting a riot.
· Teaching demonstrators how to construct incendiary devices that would be used in civil disturbances.
These seven individuals were tagged as radical left extremists, or “dirty hippies.” The Chicago Seven were acquitted of conspiracy, but five were found guilty of inciting a riot and spent time in prison. All of the convictions were eventually overturned on appeal, but not before the point was made…
Inciting a riot is something we take very seriously in America.
If you do this, or even appear to possibly do this, you will be tried, and you will lose years of your life to the legal process.
I’m not a lawyer. But I am an American. And I can tell you this…
The sanctity of MY HOUSE was violated today.
I am, as are all Americans, a victim of a crime. My house, that I pay for, with my taxes, was broken into, looted, vandalized, ransacked, and the residents threatened with deadly force. I am outraged. I feel afraid. I don’t know how to explain it to my children.
I want justice, and I will not sit quietly until those responsible are held accountable.
If you think what happened in the sacred halls of American democracy today is funny, necessary, patriotic, or in any way, shape, or form acceptable, unfollow me and condemn me if you must. Blah, blah, blah. All I hear is more whining from the people who didn’t get their way.
If you are tempted to agree with the notion that the Chicago Seven committed treason, but you feel even a private, sneaking satisfaction by the attack on the U.S. Capitol today, there is something seriously wrong with your “logic.” (I’m using the term “logic” loosely, here.)
I’m going to say this again, for those in the back…
GROW. UP. Your guy lost. Republican state officials have certified the votes. You get another chance to change things in four years.
When you throw these little tempter tantrums, you undermine the very fabric of our democracy. If this persists, we will all lose the opportunity to try again in four years.
Do you think American democracy is unbreakable? Do you think this is all in fun, just a hilarious opportunity to take a dump in Nancy Pelosi’s office?
The events of today prove that our way of life is very fragile indeed.
For those of you still thinking maybe the assault on the Capitol was a little bit funny, but who also have even a tiny shred of imagination, I challenge you to close your eyes, take a brown color crayon out of your imaginary pencil box, and shade all of the people ransacking the Capitol a nice, chocolate brown.
Now… take a step back (only in your mind… we don’t want anyone falling off the play structure). Now that the people are all brown, is what happened today in the Capitol still funny? Or do they suddenly look like terrorists to you?
If the criminals in today’s little brawl get a free “patriot” hall pass, what happens when the next “revolutionaries” are “dirty hippies,” or worse yet, “millennial snowflakes?” This slope feels awfully slippery to me.
This isn’t a frat party, boys and girls.
This is all that we are. Nancy Pelosi, as shrill as she may be, is the Speaker of the House of Representatives. You don’t break into the Speaker’s office and put your feet up on her desk, regardless of whether you like her or not, any more than you should the desk in the Oval Office.
I am no Trump fan, and I can’t say that Nancy Pelosi inspires a great deal of patriotic zeal, either, but if I were allowed — legally — into the Oval Office, or the Speaker’s office, I would behave with the deference the Office deserves, regardless of who sat in the chair during any given term.
When I say “little temper tantrums,” I mean exactly that.
I don’t care if you’re throwing a chair through a shop window or a window of the U.S. Capitol, you are behaving like a child.
As you are if you stand back and laugh on the sidelines, slapping your buddies on the back, and cheering them on.
As you are if you are sitting at home, laughing at the photos of a smiling terrorist hauling a lectern emblazoned with the United States Seal through the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.
As you are if you are at home cheering for the smirking terrorist with his feet up on the desk of the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
As you are if you are at home hollering “Hells yeah!” at your television when you see a confederate flag being carried through the halls of our nation’s Capitol.
As you are if you are at home making excuses for the behavior of these criminals against our country. Even one single utterance of “Yeah, but…” followed by any kind of justification for this behavior places you firmly in the category of infant.
You think you’ve been wronged by the system? Get in line, honey. It wraps all the way around the block. Twice.
Trump lost the election.
But we — the American people — are at risk of losing something much more valuable. Our freedom.
We all lost a bit of ourselves today at the hands of these terrorists. Our sense of security, our international reputation, our dignity was damaged today.
Whether we cede anything else to them is entirely up to us. Congress may have gone back to finish the job of certifying the election, but this is not over. It will be over only when the majority of Americans come together to condemn this attack, and all of those who participated and incited it, at all levels of government. (I’m looking at you, Trump.)
It will only be over when we as American citizens can prove with our actions, our votes, and our voices, that we as a collective citizenry are adults, able to have hard conversations without throwing a childish fit, without tossing chairs through windows when we don’t get our way, or even laughing a little inside when somebody else does our dirty work.
Copyright © 2021 Sara Beth Wald
This post was originally published on Medium.