As a student of history, I am blessed to find hope despite the events in America over the past year. I’m also disappointed that our nation has proved it learns little from the lessons provided by the past.
Put another way, we have survived events far worse than the January 6, 2021, demonstrations in Washington. Unfortunately, we keep creating crises to challenge America’s desire to survive.
As the unfortunate events of last week unfolded, several images from history wandered through my mind.
Rome was destroyed by a great fire in July of the year 64. The Roman historian Tacitus recounts the horrible event, noting that it was generally believed initially that emperor Nero (who was missing a few cards in his deck) had set the fire. Nero, being clever as well as evil, blamed the upstart religious sect: Christians. The emperor was not about to let a crisis go to waste (even one he created) and used it to attack the troublesome followers of Christ.
It occurred to me that perhaps those who raised a ruckus in the Capitol Building were some of the same thugs who have been inciting trouble in cities around the country for the past year. They were not the people who have been attending Trump rallies in joyful happiness for several years and I expect will continue to do so.
As I looked at pictures and videos of the gang that stormed into the Capitol Building, I couldn’t help but think that they didn’t look like people out to foment a revolution. Throw a tantrum maybe. Express their frustration, perhaps.
Into my mind came the image of Howard Beale, the fictional newsman from the film 1976 film Network . Frustrated by all the turmoil in the world, he would end his nightly newscast screaming, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.”
I think there are millions of Howard Beales in America today:
- Small-business owners in Chicago, Portland, Kenosha, Minneapolis and beyond who saw their properties looted and burned as police were ordered to stand down and let the violence run its course. (After all, as the Speaker of the House said, “people are going to do what they are going to do”.)
- Unemployed workers who have lost their jobs at retail stores, restaurants, and thousands of service companies because businesses have been ordered shut by politicians despite scant evidence there was any benefit to public health.
- Postal workers, nurses, and grocery employees who have been required to work while union teachers refuse to return to their jobs. (Although Catholic schools are open and doing just fine.)
- Son, daughters, and grandkids being prevented from visiting the elderly in nursing homes.
- People seeing their taxes raised and their benefits reduced.
- A government relief package that includes billions for dubious foreign aid, bailouts for non-essential institutions, and money for pork projects.
I’ve seen several self-righteous politicians and complicit news commentators decry the “desecration” of the “hallowed” ground of the capitol building. Frankly, I doubt a mob could do more to desecrate the halls of congress than the liars, cheats, and political hacks who have populated the building for the past four years. Trashing a few offices hardly comes close to wasting trillions of taxpayer dollars and letting China ruin American industry, something the incoming Administration seems determined to accelerate.
I read about a member of Congress who wanted to punish whoever it is who trespassed in his office. I expect the owners of the empty stores on Chicago formerly Magnificent Mile feel the same way about the people who looted their businesses.
Hearing of all the nonsense going on in Congress, another image come to my mind, this from the Gospel, Mark 11:15-17: And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold pigeons;  and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple.  And he taught, and said to them, “Is it not written, `My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”
The moneychangers in the temple were small-time hustlers compared to the criminals who likely stole the election and will certainly try to steal your property and the hearts and minds of your children.
Yet, I have hope because we have survived progressive nonsense (Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt), totalitarian aggression (USSR, Hitler), and massive divisiveness in our nation (Civil War, 1960s).
Can we ever learn that progressive political policies don’t lead to everyone’s prosperity but to lost jobs, failed economies, even starvation? They don’t produce the Garden of Eden, they produce Venezuela.
Can we ever learn that massing power at the center doesn’t create the good for all but a Stalin?
Can we ever learn that there is good and evil in the world and two wrongs don’t make a right?
We can and we must. And I pray that we never must take the difficult path our forefathers were called to follow:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
If anyone doesn’t recognize these words, you need to read the founding documents of our nation – and your high-school civics teacher should lose tenure.