I’m doing this post with a glass of wine because that’s the kind of week it’s been.
I watched with horror, along with the rest of the world, as pro-Trump supporters pushed their way into the Capitol building.
Let’s be clear about this from the beginning: they did not waltz in. The red carpet was not rolled out in front of them. We have the footage. They broke windows and banged up doors. Can we kill that conspiracy theory here and now before it blossoms in the recesses of QAnon?
They violently forced their way into the Capitol building. And first hearing about it and then seeing the video, I thought I would be fine. Just another day if it were 2020. Did any of us really think chaos would end because the calendar year changed by one?
But then I found myself inexplicably tearing up throughout the day as the realization of what had happened sank in.
Some in the crowd were looking for politicians to arrest and possibly hang. I assume this, though to be fair, the guy in tactical gear might have just been carrying flex cuffs because it matched the rest of his outfit and the noose erected outside the capitol might have been for fun. We may never know.
Enough sarcasm. This was an attempted coup. This was an attempt at intimidating and stopping our democracy by force.
But here’s where it really gets sad. As soon as some horrible event transpires that doesn’t fit nicely into one group’s ideology – some heinous act that by all accounts is what it looks to be – you start getting people defending it. How quickly friends in my Facebook feed started saying Antifa were the real instigators or posting pictures of a quaint old woman roaming through the halls of the Capitol.
Conservative friend: “See? It’s like they are going to a museum. Only difference is they’re breaking things and taking stuff.”
Not to harp on one side of the spectrum too much, this happened during the BLM protests. Low-income housing was burnt to the ground, Molotov cocktails were tossed by protesters, and cops were killed in cold blood.
Liberal friend: “Oh, but the ‘social contract’ was broken, so that gives protesters the right to destroy people’s livelihoods and steal their property – in the middle of a pandemic, no less, when everyone is struggling already.”
I know typing this isn’t going to change anyone’s mind – certainly not with the tone I’m taking. And I apologize for it. This just gets tiring after awhile.
But can I offer, in the midst of all the crazy going on in the U.S. right now, something from a more neutral perspective that might help? Something we could all use no matter what we believe?
Something I confess often to our parish priest is that I get frustrated too readily with people I think are stupid. And his advice is always the same: “You can’t change other people, but you can change yourself.”
If you are someone who falls heavily on one side of the ideological spectrum or the other, can you do the rest of us a favor and ask yourself what you and your tribe could change about yourselves in 2021? Could you consider what lessons you personally need to learn from 2020?
None of us are saints. Bishop Barron said this riot on the Capitol was the culmination of a really horrible year in general full of violence and hatred. I believe him.
After all that has been said and done, could you take a few moments with me to consider not how someone else has gone off the rails, but how you have?
Everyone is pointing fingers right now, but no one is looking in the mirror. Again, quintessential 2020.
Consider how you have fed the fire, ways you have gone too far, times when the motivation was right but the execution was all wrong. I know I can’t change your mind, but I know for myself, at least, I don’t want to be the same asshole I was in 2020.
Maybe we can all take a deep breath, gather our thoughts, and figure out how we got here before we start rioting or burning down another government building. It can’t hurt.
I’ll do it if you do it.
©2021 Catholic Anonymous