Even if I would have had time to process my thoughts and impressions from this past week, I don’t think I would have adequate words, or certainly comparable experience, to express and explain my range of lingering emotions and concerns about what happened to us during this momentous stretch of American history. I do know that this past week is a powerful reminder of both the importance of a democratic process of governance and also its vulnerability.
The people of Georgia provided a model for the redemptive power of the democratic right to vote. The slim margins of victory were enough to restore a wobbly confidence that a fair election can nonviolently overcome voter suppression, unjust laws and irresponsible leadership. The Georgia election was also a lesson in the necessity of vigilance and determination if a democratic process is to work. Georgia’s ability to victoriously overcome the legacy of voter suppression, most persistently and notably disenfranchising people of color, is an inspirational landmark for the crucial importance of the right to vote for the future. We owe an enormous tribute and gratitude to the people of Georgia who voted for Warnock and Ossoff, for their inspiration and their incredible contribution to the enhanced opportunity for our nation’s healing and reconciliation.
The heart-lifting news of the success of the Democratic candidates in Georgia was suddenly overshadowed by the right wing violence in DC instigated by the president. As much as we need to celebrate the Georgia elections and the eventual confirmation of the election of Joe Biden, we must still hold our apprehensions about whether we as a nation can now yet survive another several days of the misplaced and threatening power of a besieged and thrashing presidency. It is one thing to be able to view a promised land of a Biden presidency, and it is another to assume safe passage. We are left with no choice but to rely on the resiliency of our democratic institutions and the patriotic commitment of the professionals within the government. We can only hope they can somehow steer our ship of state through the narrows of the next few days and subdue whatever destructive or disruptive measures that may still be contemplated or instituted.
The Georgia election and the DC violence, like so much of the drama these past months especially - including the our efforts to deal with the surge in the Covid-19 pandemic - represent the best and worst of the American saga. There remains much that is admirable and noble about the launch of a nation based on the “inherent equality” of its people. We had an opportunity to see this ideal work in the presidential and Georgia elections where the people were given the freedom to express their will nonviolently, through a democratic process of voting, as to who would be their leaders with their alternative visions of government.
And we also saw in dramatic full view the violence in the riotous assault on Congress. The ultimate causes of this violence are complex, but they ultimately are largely the result of our multiple and lapsing failures to abide by our stated values of “inherent equality” and our increasing tolerance of violence and might. These violent and exclusionary policies have resulted in the racism, economic inequality, and cancerous divisions that now plague us. The violent assault on Congress, the seat of an elected, representative body empowered to serve the common good through the exercise of debate and negotiation, somehow sends a stunning shake up that the democratic political process cannot continue to be a win-lose, partisan game. Our leadership and our people must be asked whether we are committed to serving the common good above selfish and partisan gain. The powerful control of the corporations and the military must be redirected to the needs of our communities and our people or we will continue to be on the path of more violence and destruction.
I will continue to be especially anxious through the next week and into the inauguration. Like many of you, I will compulsively check for news. There is no assurance this is a three act play with a satisfying conclusion. But neither must it be an American tragedy. Powerful theater, like all art, is ultimately judged by whether its drama transcends the immediate challenges and provides a moral vision. I want our nation, and each of us, to ponder deeply what it means for us to have the right to vote and to be able to use our voting power to assure that we elect officials dedicated ultimately to serving the common good.
With a hopeful wariness and a blessing of peace,