After the dust and the smoke settles from the chaotic scenes in Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 6, they should be a wake-up call for all us. All the facts and details of Wednesday’s dramatic events still need to be ascertained.
They are reminders that words and rhetoric matter but also that listening and trying to understand others (even those whom we strongly disagree with) also matters.
The protests in D.C. and the storming of Capitol Hill are also a reminder that many of our neighbors have great distrust of our institutions. We continue to see societal, historical and political stresses boiling over.
We saw it after the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis brought forth the wounds related to race, the legal system and a sense of hopelessness in too many of our communities.
Those wounds are historical and, unfortunately, contemporary here on the Eastern Shore. They sadly include race as well as class.
On Wednesday, we saw Trump supporters also boil over in D.C.
The protesters in D.C. while Congress was debating President-elect Joe Biden’s victory not only distrust the election results but also bigger institutions — including the media, the economic system and government at large. They have felt left behind by the economy.
We all see the stock market hitting record highs while others face evictions, and food banks are overwhelmed.
Social media, political divisions and the stresses of the pandemic (including its health impacts, shutdowns and job losses) have added to our collective stresses.
None of this from any quarter is an excuse for violence or hurting others.
But we have to start acknowledging that our words and rhetoric matter. That extends from our elected officials all the way down to cable news and our own social media posts. We in the media also have to take some responsibility for some fostering and magnifying our divisions. We all need to do a better job of rebuilding trust. We in the media need more thoughtful stories on how we got to this point and how we go forward.
The past year has been a tinderbox and feels like the next spark is ready to result in an inferno. We have seen that in Minneapolis, Portland, New York, Baltimore and now Washington.
We should be reminded these protesters we are so quick to condemn, depending on the issue and political situation, are our neighbors.
We also have to start listening and understanding where they are coming from with their views and perspectives. Too many of our neighbors sadly feel like they are not valued or matter.
We have not walked in their shoes and had their experiences. That does not make our neighbors’ views or stances correct. It does not make some of their actions excusable.
Can we try to remember these people are our neighbors and not our enemies and adversaries?
Maybe, if we start listening to them a bit more and trying to understand their grievances we can have fewer repeats of our summer unrest and Wednesday’s chaos.
That is our hope, and we all need plenty of hope right now.