On January 6, 2021, soon before Congress was to ratify Biden’s presidency, the nation turned on itself. A mob stormed the capitol building, some in anger at events beyond their control, some in hopes that a show of destruction would make their voices heard, and some simply caught up in the novelty of uncivilized violent protest, not even really knowing why they were there– mob mentality at its finest.
Most of the violent protestors (but not all) were Trump supporters. Some of them (but not all) were young people who wanted to defy authority. Many of them, and I would argue all of them, were blind: Blind to reason, blind to justice, and blind to the consequences of their actions. This protest was not American, not in the least. Such a violent protest is pointless and a violation of the Constitution’s First Amendment.– that’s not democracy! The beauty of our country is that the transfer of power happens peacefully, even between disagreeing groups. Yes, peaceful protest is our right. But when it is pushed too far, like it was this Wednesday, it becomes violent, mob-like, and absolutely unreasonable.
It seems every news source out there, no matter their political orientation, hints (or blatantly argues) that Trump is to blame for creating the fired-up mob. True, they were mostly his supporters. True, he did not act as quickly to stop the mob as he should have. And true, Trump’s reaction does indeed call into question his motives. I will not dispute that– even firmly oriented Republicans are incredulous at these proceedings, which suggests that this is not a problem that either party should seek blame. (And it’s certainly worth considering that maybe, just maybe, a politician shouldn’t be automatically held responsible for his supporters’ actions).
Because when it comes down to it, the parties aren’t what matters, not when it comes to the very fabric of our nation being stretched like it has in this past year: the death of George Floyd. Questions about racial equality, and peaceful protests that sometimes turned violent. Oh, yeah, and COVID-19. It’s been a rough year. Then, to top it all off, 2020’s tense presidential election, in which these events were manipulated and politicized by all sides to make a point. It’s sickening to see politicians manipulate people’s emotions and trust in an attempt to gain a few more votes. But these aren’t issues that should push Democrats and Republicans apart– neither is the mob of January 6th. Racism, the pandemic, justice and law… These are issues that should bring them closer together, that should bring us closer together as a nation, as we work to solve them in a reasonable, just, American way.
So as we look, horrified, at the way our nation tries to tear itself apart, our responsibility as young people is not to blindly choose sides, nor to find a place to cast blame for the inherent problems that come with being a nation of beautiful but intrinsically flawed human beings. No, our responsibility is to keep an open mind.
And that is what I ask you to take away from this. Rather than observing the ups and downs of American politics and finding a way to stir it up even more, instead I ask that you take a step back, take a deep breath if needed, and look at the situation a little more objectively:
Nobody is less American just for being Democrat or Republican. Nobody is less human just for looking different, for talking different, or for being a police officer or a politician or anything else. Even the people who have a different opinion from you are still human; even the haters are human; even the people who make a mistake, or fall prey to corruption or violence or greed, are still human. That’s why America is so amazing as a country, as an idea– once we willingly unite, America becomes a place where we can all be vastly different from one another in body and in thought, but be stronger for it.