AMERICA THE BROKEN

They were images we’ve seen before — an out of control mob breaking into a government building, storming through halls and invading offices. But it’s always been somewhere else, far away, in countries we felt sorry for, superior to, places Americans are warned not to visit. We didn’t think it could happen here. But we were naive. A wanna-be dictator is as dangerous as an actual dictator when he stands in front of thousands of angry people and riles them up. It’s not hard to goad them into storming a building that is seen as a sacred example of our democracy after you’ve spent four years tearing down that democracy.

Donald Trump got exactly what he planned for yesterday. And while the rest of us were watching in tears and sorrow, he was loving every minute of it. A Confederate flag being marched through the hallowed halls of the Capitol. Windows being smashed. Nancy Pelosi’s office invaded and vandalized. Elected officials cowering in fear, many admitting they didn’t know if they would live through the day. And police strangely absent, although some who were present choosing to snap selfies with the rioters. To state the obvious, if the rioters had been black, they would have been mowed down with live ammunition.

Rage isn’t hard to stir up if you know where to look for it. Donald Trump is not an intelligent man, but he is smart enough to know instinctually where people’s weak points are. Four years ago, he smelled anger out there in the country; he sensed bloodlust, and he went straight for it, stirring up the live embers of racism and anti-semitism, stoking the discontent of people who felt trapped in their lives, convincing them that he alone could change their situations for the better if only they would help him get everyone else out of the way.

Many years ago, my father borrowed a phrase from a 1630 sermon by John Winthrop and began referring to America as a “shining city on a hill.” Right now, we are a city that is struggling to remember how to shine. We are broken. We are grieving. We are mistrustful of our neighbors and desperate for leadership. And if you aren’t afraid of what Donald Trump might do in the next 13 days, something is wrong with you.

But here is the thing about broken places. If they heal, they heal stronger than they were before. Scar tissue is tough. It reminds us of the wounds that caused it but it also reminds us of our ability to mend, to find new strength. We must never forget what happened to America on January 6, 2021. It’s a wound we need to revere, because healing from it will determine our future.

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