God bless Stacey Abrams! The runoff election victory for two U.S. Senate seats in Georgia on Tuesday can be attributed, in significant measure, to her work through Fair Count and Fair Fight to register voters, inform voters and get out the vote. The historic outcome — wins for the Democratic candidates in both races — will see the first Jewish and the first Black senator ever elected by the state of Georgia sworn in later this month.
The Associated Press declared Rev. Raphael Warnock the winner of his race at 2 AM ET Wednesday morning. Ossoff’s race was closer and took a little longer to call. The AP called him the winner around 4 PM ET in the afternoon.
As this good news was announced, the nation’s Capitol was being invaded by armed rioters who were incited to violence, to disrupting government, and to breaking the law by the sitting president who, just a few blocks away, continued to encourage domestic terrorists masquerading as “patriots” through Twitter.
The emotional whiplash of celebrating a peaceful, successful democratic election and victory one minute, and the next watching a mob of mostly white men carrying Trump flags and other racist, antisemitic, and sexist hand-scrawled signs, breaking windows, and crashing through the doors of the U.S. Capitol building, was heartbreaking.
Although many of us have been expecting violence as a result of having a delusional narcissist in the White House, the images were still shocking. Perhaps most shocking was the contrast between the police response to the insurrection and recent protests in D.C., like the Black Lives Matter protest in June. Remember those images — chemical sprays, flash bombs and hundreds, if not thousands, of arrests with scenes of people thrown to the ground — a violent response to nonviolent, purposeful protests.
(Personal note: Jane Fonda was arrested five times by this same security force during Fire Drill Friday’s peaceful civil disobedience marches and sit-ins, calling attention to the climate emergency. Along with my granddaughter, daughter-in-law and another 100 women and men, I, too, was handcuffed and detained for sitting peacefully in the lobby of a Senate office building.)
On January 6th, we saw members of this same Capitol police force taking selfies of themselves with the rioters! At some of the entrances, we saw no real attempts to stop the intruders pushing past security barriers and there were hardly any arrests. The mostly white male rioters, some wearing camouflage and combat gear and some dressed in costumes as if they were going to a conspiracy costume party rather than vandalizing Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office like out-of-control grade-school punks. And let’s face it. That’s who they were. Not patriots. Not protestors with a purpose. Delusional conspiracy theorists incited to take up arms to defend their Conspirator in Chief encouraging them from the safety of the West Wing….until Twitter cut off his propaganda power. (Too bad Twitter didn’t voluntarily shut down Trump’s account long before this example of its dangerous power!)
How do we recover our balance from such a day? How do we stop the pendulum from swinging back and forth with ever increasing speed between progress and backlash — a Black president followed by a white supremacist, the election of the first Black and Jewish senators from Georgia followed almost immediately by riots in D.C. Yes, every time we have made progress in this country, there has been pushback, but the speed of the backlash we’re seeing these days is like nothing I’ve seen in my lifetime.
Despite that, I am holding onto hope, counting on President-elect Biden and our first Black Indian-American Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to take on the hard work of moving us from this dark and dangerous time to a place where we can slow the boomerang pendulum, approach challenges with reason and accountability, and restore truth as an essential value in our democracy.
On Wednesday in his victory speech, Senator-elect Warnock said, “I stand before you as a man who knows that the improbable journey that led me to this place in this historic moment in America that could only happen here.”
Such stories of opportunities and improbable journeys to realize individual and collective dreams will continue to happen here only if our young democracy can find its balance again. I believe that will take a concerted effort by all of us. Maybe it’s time for a real Truth and Reconciliation in this country. In order to bridge our differences, we need to face some uncomfortable truths about who we are as Americans and how we got here. We need to accept responsibility for the present and the past. It’s only then that we can finally move on from our country’s imperfections to our country’s promise — a promise that keeps my hope alive for what we can be.