As a country, we need to take a breath and deeply study what’s occurred leading up to the events at the Capitol today to identify which leaders, systems, actions, and words have enabled this unprecedented, divisive, and irresponsible act of chaos and violence against democracy.
Accountability is the first step, prevention is the next. Whataboutism has no validity here.
By amplifying falsehoods and half-truths, peddling conspiracy theories, governing through division, and monetizing and crowdfunding outrage, the actions of a few have placed in peril the institutions we as a nation collectively hold dear, trodding on everyone’s freedom as a result.
Years of this behavior carefully cultivated a monster and, in a tale as old as time, its own creators have lost control over it.
Next time the loyalty tests may be better hidden, the dog whistles may not be so overt, the coup not so clumsy. Now is the time to strengthen the bulwarks of our institutions at every level to protect against another attempt.
Schadenfreude cannot continue to be a national pastime or a way of life. We’re witnessing the consequences of non-stop rhetoric, lies, and justifications collectively aimed at disenfranchising the truth and civil discourse through a win-at-all-costs mentality.
We cannot allow that to continue. Civil discourse and mutual respect must be restored and our institutions must be systemically protected and strengthened.
Honest intent is the lifeblood of democracy, empowered by respect for each other and ideas bigger than each of us despite the fact that the paths to implementing those ideas may be divergent; freedom is poisoned by lies and conspiracy theories, peace deteriorates through the disregard of a common set of facts.
Politicians should not be compensated with athlete-level salaries and sponsorships to razzle-dazzle with ever-increasing shows of partisanship and polarity.
We can strengthen and reaffirm our democracy by identifying the systems that need to change and changing them – getting big money out of politics, elevating public discourse and respect, honoring debate and inconvenient truths, collaborating rather than competing, prioritizing education around civic processes to make them more transparent and relatable, and disincentivizing (and eliminating monetization of) divisive, polarizing rhetoric.
While they hurt to see, these inevitable growing pains, these challenges to our institutions, are survivable.