Sunday Morning ~ Saving the Stick
Adaocha cicidi ca ukonde. ~ He burnt the stick which held up the net.
~ Chewa proverb
August 1, 2021
This past Tuesday I agreed to drive to Brunswick for a meeting. It felt a little odd, meeting in the flesh, and I considered the practicality of it. The summer traffic, carbon impact, wear on my car, all things I wouldn’t have thought twice about before the pandemic. But one of the participants was old school and not comfortable with zoom. I was very interested in being considered as a board member for this organization so didn’t think long about consenting to the trip. It seemed downright nostalgic, and ultimately was worth it both for the meeting outcome and the gripping story on the radio during the three hour drive.
On January 6, 2021 I was puttering around my kitchen when I looked at my phone and saw a text that said, “They are in the capitol!” I had purposely not listened to the news that morning to keep my anxiety manageable. I’d spent the previous four years feeling like I was being chased on the edge of a cliff and had decided to preserve what was left of my rational faculties. I figured I’d tune in later and hear how the election certification had unfolded, never questioning whether it would happen. I knew there’d be drama and pontificating, however, and didn’t mind missing that. I thought I’d finally go to sleep that night with a sense of stability in the world. But the text changed my plans and sent me scrambling to open my laptop and live-stream the hell-scape that was the capitol building. I watched with horror and started having a panic attack. I was having a hard time breathing. I had chest pain. I ran to the liquor cabinet knowing I needed to calm myself and deep breathing wasn’t cutting it. From two in the afternoon until well into the evening I sat glued to the screen, sipping amaro. The liquor definitely slowed my heart rate as I absorbed how far we had fallen. I texted back and forth with family and friends, all of us commenting on what we were watching in real time. “They are just letting them through!” We were outraged with what we thought was the complicity of the capitol police. From the camera angles in our view it seemed these people were just allowed in to disgrace the place once the barriers were breached. I thought, if those rioters were black they would have shot them on sight. I thought I knew because I was watching it.
For the past three weeks I have had houseguests and have not had the news on as much as I usually do. I knew the House of Representatives had formed a committee to investigate January 6th but did not know the hearings were starting last week. I have been rising in the morning assuming our president is working for the country not against it and therefore have not anxiously built my day around shocking news stories. It’s been glorious. On Tuesday morning, I made tea in my travel mug, dressed in business casual, and got in my car thinking I’d listen to my latest book-group read. The radio came on and I reached to turn it off when I realized it sounded like a live broadcast of something in congress. I left it on as I backed down the driveway wondering what was going on. For the next three hours I choked back sobs as I listened to the first-hand account of what happened to those policemen on January 6th. It’s Sunday and I am still disturbed and shaken.
So many of my assumptions were wrong. They had a reason for not shooting, though they described considering it. Information had circulated that the rioters (terrorists) were armed. They’d heard explosives were discovered and had no idea what the plan was for detonating them. Under attack, with weapons being used against them, they had to calculate whether shooting an attacker would detonate an explosive. The strength and skill of these men are breathtaking. I listened, trying to keep the tears from obstructing my view as I drove and thought they are the absolute definition of the word hero. I am so humbled. I’ve read and re-read The Art of War, by Sun Tzu. It states if we are outnumbered in every way, we should flee from the enemy. On January 6th the terrorists outnumbered the police by sixty to one and reinforcements were not coming. These men stood their ground as long as they could to give others a chance to flee to safety. Then some of those whose lives they saved slander them as liars. This is so much deeper and more sordid than I realized.
The Watergate hearings lasted over thirteen months. I was a senior in high school and current events barely registered. I think back and wonder how I could have existed in that dark cave of senior photos, college applications, and last dances without a thought for the danger to our democracy? I guess I just thought the adults who knew about these things would work it out. I had a blind faith that justice would play out eventually, and figured there was someone who got paid to fix it. It wasn’t my job. Tuesday, I listened to Liz Cheney and thought, this is just the beginning. I’m grateful to her and think about how pathetic it is to be so grateful for someone to just tell the truth. But I am. I’m grateful for her and for all those in leadership who are committed to truth and justice. Amazing how expectations vary. I heard all their concern, maybe even fear, for the future of our country and what is at stake. I take a breath and listen to the stories of those who were there. I hope everyone does the same. I’ve been worried our impatience would be the equivalent of burning the stick holding up our fragile democracy. Those voices, while painful to hear, gave me hope. We need to hear it all.
Love to all,