Unity, Disunity, and Values

I spent the majority of my time on January 20 watching the first time America hasn’t had a truly peaceful transfer of power in my lifetime (I hope it is the last time I’ll live through something like this).

I felt a tremendous sense of pride for the hard work the Biden team put into planning the entire event. I’m also grateful for the thousands of people who pulled it off (never forget there are *people* behind all of this, everyday people like you and me working their fannies off).

I was so moved by Eugene Goodman — hero of the January 6 insurrection — serving as acting House Sergeant at Arms. I shed a tear at Amy Klobuchar’s sly smile as she said “*Madam* Vice President.” Lady Gaga brought down the house. Garth Brooks on “Amazing Grace” brought me to tears — as the song always does.

Amanda Gorman stole the show with her INCREDIBLE “The Hill We Climb,” a beautiful poem that is a vital lesson in American history in verse. (Seriously, y’all, watch it again and remember she’s 22 years old. I am so inspired by young people it’s ridiculous)

Amanda Gorman, the Youth Poet Laurate of the United States

I wept when watching Kamala Harris take the Oath of Office with my 16-year-old daughter Tyler (and every time I thought of it afterwards).

I listened closely to the Oath for the first time in a long time, keeping in mind the events of January 6, 2021, a coup attempt against this very government whose power was changing hands, which Congressmen and Donald Trump actively incited from the dais.

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

It’s easy to forget this when considering the malfeasance of the administration of the disgraced 45th President. The Constitution doesn’t exist for one man or one political party, it exists for *all* of us, and the President’s MAIN job, above all, is to “Support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

It’s that last word that really grabbed me yesterday: “domestic enemies.”

For too long, we have allowed ourselves to be governed by our fears about the “other” in our society, yet it was white supremacists and Christian nationalists who stormed the US Capitol in an ill-fated and poorly planned coup attempt encouraged by Trump and his allies.

Thus, I found these words from Biden’s inaugural address particularly important.

“And now, a rise in political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.”

I am grateful that President Biden chose to stand on the steps of the Capitol — the very same steps that traitors and white supremacists “stormed” in part of a violent insurrection attempt — and called for us to address the scourge of domestic terrorism.

I’m also not surprised that elements of the conservative media echo chamber heard Biden’s call to rebuke these extremists as painting them with the same brush as the insurrectionists. Rand Paul and Tucker Carlson both repeated these talking points last night and calling out Biden’s call for unity.

It gave me pause and raised two questions:

  1. Did President Biden really call *Trump* voters white supremacists?
  2. How does disavowing white supremacists equal disunity?

I didn’t remember hearing the President say anything close to this spin. And, upon second review, he didn’t. I revisited the speech again today. Sure enough, the transcript said the EXACT SAME THING he said yesterday.

My conclusion? “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

The caterwauling in response to Biden mentioning white supremacy as a *bad* thing we have to address tells me Paul and Carlson and others know they’re hanging out with shady characters and instead of disavowing them, are using the racism flag to keep their audiences riled up.

It’s a terrible look and it is shameful.

READ IT AGAIN:

“And now, a rise in political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat. To overcome these challenges — to restore the soul and to secure the future of America — requires more than words. It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy: Unity.”

He called no one anything, painted no broad strokes when mentioning white supremacy.

Instead he called for us to unite in disavowing the elements that fomented the fascist-led/-inspired coup attempt on those very steps 2 weeks before.

From my vantage point Biden’s call is pretty simple. Will you join him, me, and 81 million other Americans in disavowing white supremacists and extremists, or not?

Unity is about shared values.

Can we unify around the value of rejecting white supremacists? Can we unify around the idea that we do not want nazis in the US Capitol wearing shirts flaunting the systematic murder of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust attempting to overturn an election?

How hard is this people? Why is being against white supremacists even a debate?

Those who refuse to accept that it was *domestic* violent extremists who attacked our country on January 6; see President Biden calling it out and feel somehow “attacked;” and are unwilling to disavow the violence that happened January 6 are telegraphing to millions of their fellow Americans that they don’t care a whit about unity, because unity means some accountability.

And in preparation for the proverbial “both-sides” argument the right loves to engage in constantly, please remember a few things about the Summer 2020 protests:

  1. Intent matters. BLM protests did not intend to overthrow the government. It is clear that January 6 was a coup attempt, however poorly executed.
  2. Deaths are always worse than property devastation. Be prepared to discuss how/why you find the deaths of at least two police officers and beatings of countless others from the January 6 insurrection “less worse” than 15–26 million Americans’ protests for justice that resulted in property destruction.
  3. We cannot wish away racism. We have to address it head on. All Americans should be massively disappointed that conservative media and politicians have chosen this tack against President Biden and the 81 million of us who voted for him.

Racism sucks y’all. It’s a pervasive disease.

If you can’t get behind the President of the United States when he calls out white supremacy and domestic terrorism

  1. on his inauguration day
  2. on the very steps that white supremacists/domestic terrorists stormed in an attempt to stop Congress certifying his election
  3. as he seeks to hold this fragile system together with an idea we should all be able to get behind…

When will you? It’s kinda now or never y’all.

ps: Not sure if I’ll keep doing this or if I’ll move to another format or what. But if you’re interested in staying in touch and would rather just keep track of stuff I’m doing in one place, shoot me your email. I promise I’ll ask before I put you on any list or anything :) https://bit.ly/ImADoctor

President of The Lyndhurst Group, a history, museum, and nonprofit firm providing community-focused strategies for planning, assessment, and interpretation.