There is another day that will also now live in infamy in American history. A day when five tragic and unnecessary deaths occurred at our nation’s Capitol. They were added to the day’s death count in America of nearly 4,000 deaths due to the even larger and equally unnecessary tragedy of the COVID-19 virus. The one event the likes of which we’ve not seen since 1814. The other the mark of an ugly new record made since the pandemic reached our shores. Each of them further tarnishing the image of America both here at home and around the world.
The images of the actions which poured forth from Washington D.C. that fateful day were both disturbing and surreal. From the disgusting ones of an American president fomenting insurrection to satisfy his childish, arrogant petulance to the ones of an armed attack directly on the hallowed halls of our democracy. The paradox being those there that day to protest being manipulated were in fact there only because they had been manipulated. What we saw that day starkly underscores that which President-elect Biden long ago described as the battle for the soul of America.
There were the images of hundreds maybe thousands of people gathered as a thuggish mob, wrapped in red hats and horned helmets, camouflage and other military-style garb desecrating the people’s house. And amazingly, some – though clearly not all – wore a particularly interesting covering on their bodies.
It is truly beyond the pale to consider that the same group of people whose insistence that their liberties were being usurped by the request to wear a mask to halt the spread of a deadly disease were ready, willing and able to cover their venom-spewing mouths with masks to protect those same liberties by hiding their identity from legal prosecution. (Although many were the fools who didn’t despite a raging pandemic and now rightfully are in the crosshairs of the system of laws they sought to refute.)
Perhaps this is where America’s greatness lies: in its uncanny ability to weave a web of pure hypocrisy.
That web of hypocrisy grew larger in the aftermath of this latest and perhaps most significant assault in the last four years on our democratic principles. Caught in its weave are the defectors from the Trump administration who are popping up left and right, miraculously finding their heretofore lost sense of duty, dignity and honor, in a futile attempt to avoid their legacies being blotted by this latest in a litany of crimes against our Constitution and humanity that have been consistently perpetrated by their dear leader.
But, they have far more to worry about than their legacies being blotted by the shallowness of resignations that didn’t come long before yet another barrage of egregious behavior from a demented demagogue whom they willingly followed with blind abandon. Instead, on their hands – and the hands of the US Representatives and Senators who with impunity were the accomplices of the seditionists – is the blood of the victims of the physical attack on the symbolic center of our democracy.
And still there were other images and actions which gave us shreds of hope to hang on to.
One example being that of Rep. Andy Kim, D-NJ, seen bent down on one knee to help clear the debris left by those who desecrated a place Kim felt to be sacred. A man who, as a child of immigrants, views with reverence the opportunity to serve a country whose system of governance encourages participation in it by all seeking to uplift it, to expand it and most importantly, willing to protect it. The picture is striking insomuch that as much as the term has been bandied about these last few days and throughout Trump’s reign of terror, “…this is not who we are…”, in effect we have very clearly shown, without a shadow of a doubt the existence of two very real sides of the profile of America.
One side representing the cancerous division that has always plagued us and symbolized by those hell bent on preserving that divisiveness even if it must come through destruction and death. The other a republic for which we should be – must be – standing by, exemplified by Kim’s hands extended to pick up the pieces wrought by domestic terrorism, attempting to put them back together to heal a nation of the sickness of toxic individualism.
As the glass is swept up, the carnage is cleared, and the bloodied and lifeless bodies are taken away we are faced with a choice no lesser in importance than the one we made when founding this country. The risks now perhaps even higher should we choose poorly. When we first chose to form our country, we dreamed of what it could represent and who we the people in it could aspire to be. Now we stare down the prospect of what we may have become, what we may have lost and may still have yet to lose.
Will we choose to turn toward a profile of the dark side of our lesser selves with the intent to further fray the ties that bind us together? Or will we choose instead to turn toward the light of our higher potential and, as President Kennedy once wrote of a long time ago, a profile in courage?
For all Americans, the answers to those questions are one very long and very hard look at the image in the mirror away.