We All Know Right From Wrong
You may have watched in real time, as I did, the horrific scenes as thousands of insurrectionists stormed the Capitol on January 6. Or maybe you saw clips of the worst of it later, brought to you by brave reporters armed with cell phone cameras instead of fire extinguishers or flag poles.
You may be wondering, as I am, how those people could have been spun into such a froth they would leave their homes to travel to that spot, fully prepared to storm the building in order to stop by any means possible the final confirmation that would give Joe Biden, the winner, the presidency over Donald Trump, the loser.
They came prepared to do bodily harm. Some of them wanted to see certain members of congress dead. We know this because they said so and we have their voices on record. We saw the ugly symbolic noose waving in the breeze against the backdrop of our beautiful, historic Capitol building, even as it was setting up with banners and bleachers for the upcoming inauguration of the next president, Joseph R. Biden.
They came to terrorize their own government.
The Capitol was rigged with barriers and fences, designed with more hope than efficacy, placed more as a warning than as a real barricade. Everyone expected crowds of protestors but nobody really believed they would attempt an actual insurrection. Who could predict such a thing? Did those people waving Trump flags and wearing face paint, MAGA wear, and faux military uniforms really think they could change the course of a legitimate presidential election by storming a historic government building minutes before the peaceful transfer of power was to take place?
Well, yes, some of them did. Some of them more likely liked the idea of playing a terrorist without really being one. Some of them then got caught up in the moment and behaved like terrorists. They weren’t all there as insurrectionists, but the world has a hard time sifting through their actions to see the difference. And in the end there was no difference. In the end they were all guilty — some of more egregious crimes than others, but in the end — guilty.
Now some of them are blaming that ol’ debbil Trump for making them believe they were doing the right thing.
They never would have done it, they say, if the former President hadn’t told them to. He refused to concede and promoted “Stop the Steal” and they were led to believe the election had actually been stolen. They wouldn’t have done it if they had known the truth.
If only they had known the truth.
We’re living in a culture where we’re divided between right and wrong. There’s no other way to look at it. What was a drip, drip, drip of political wrong-doing before Trump came along has become a steady gush now that he’s been front and center for what seems like forever.
Trump’s appalling, often deadly, actions should have been a warning signal. Instead they’re in vogue. So are the lies. So are the excuses. And why not? They work. Seventy million voters were willing to give Donald Trump another chance and keep him in the highest office in the land — an office he blatantly abused without fear or conscience.
He never doubted for a moment that he would be swept into a second term, leaving Joe Biden in his dust. When it didn’t happen, he sought revenge. He demanded recounts. Then he demanded the entire election be overturned, simply because he demanded it.
He was impeached a second time for inciting an insurrection. (It’s hard to even write those words and even harder to write the next.) He was acquitted, thanks to 43 Republicans who chose wrong over right. And every day we revel in the notion that his time will come. He’ll be indicted. Surely. Any day now.
If I say we’re better than this, more than half the country will come back and say, “No we’re not.” But we are. Or we can be. We know right from wrong, and as long as we’re able to make choices, we can choose right or wrong. But first we have to stop accepting lies and denial and insist on truth and acceptance of guilt.
Donald Trump brought evil and chaos to the White House. He didn’t just normalize it, he gave it permission to thrive. Lies are truth and truth is fake. We have QAnon members in Congress now. Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and Ted Cruz all lie without conscience. Almost every officeholder in the Republican Party worked to protect Donald Trump during his tenure as Worst President Ever.
If they weren’t all government officials we could rest easy. But they are. We pay them to uphold their oaths and they’ve refused — with no consequences. But worse than that, they’ve become role models for evil. Yes, evil. It’s not a word I use lightly, but its definition, “profoundly immoral and wicked”, fits.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans have died or and millions more have been infected or are in danger of infection from COVID 19 because the people who took an oath to protect Americans either neglected to or deliberately failed to do it. That’s evil.
The Trump administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement — ICE — tore babies and small children from their parents’ arms, often deporting the parents and sometimes adopting out children who were not orphans. Many of the remaining children have spent months, if not years, in cages. That’s evil
Today, millions of Texans are suffering through freezing and flooding because the powers-that-be refused to hook up to a central government system that might have saved them, and then went on the cheap, ignoring the need to winterize power stations and wind turbines, rendering them useless in a polar vortex. They had no plan for a big freeze. None. That’s evil.
We can change this by never condoning grievous wrongs, by never allowing them, and by never forgiving them.
“Forgive” is a fraught word. The importance of forgiveness is drilled into us from an early age. It’s part of learning to do good. It takes a big heart to forgive and we never want to be accused of not having a big heart. No matter what anyone has done, forgiving them makes us the bigger person.
Forgiveness looks like weakness to evil people. They’ll make us sorry if we don’t, but if we do we’ve exposed yet another crack in our resolve.
We think our strength lies in marching for justice, in howling for equity, but justice demands hardheaded toughness and we’re not always up to following it through. We give in. We’re easily exhausted by the constant ramming of our senses. We still can’t believe evil lives among us.
We know right from wrong and we’re right. We’ve been right all along. But now we have to deal with the reality that is the United States today: Evil often wins.
Instead of allowing our goodness to defeat us, we have to demand strength. The kind of moral strength that doesn’t allow evil to wiggle its way in, trying to look for all the world like it belongs there. We know it when we see it. We don’t need legal or religious training to recognize it. It’s the ugly opposite of us.
Goodness is the one constant in any successful democracy. Bad people will always work to undermine true democracy because true democracy demands equity for all people. It puts us on a level playing field, where everyone has a chance to succeed.
In a true democracy there’s no real gain for the profiteers or the powermongers, and they’ve been in charge for so long it’s become a way of life for them. They aren’t going to give up without a fight, and they have better weapons than we do. They’re armed to the teeth and their funds will never dry up.
This is what we’re up against. The fight is between good and evil and we can’t get scared and we can’t get side-tracked. Our power lies in our belief in our goodness.