Though I have never been a practicing Christian, there are few lines from the Bible that have always stayed with me. One was when Jesus tells a crowd preparing to stone a woman accused of adultery: “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.” Another was when Jesus was put on the cross, and asks God to forgive those who put him there, “. . .for they know not what they do.”
Those two quotes have been on my mind since I watched the madness that descended on our nation’s capital last Wednesday. Did I want to see the people responsible, both elected and unelected, punished? Oh, yes. All sorts of dark fantasies about those peoples’ futures passed through my mind. After all, in their mania, in their delusion, they were attempting to end democracy and the rule of law, to turn this country into an autocracy.
Of course, if you’d asked them, most would have said they were defending democracy, that we were already a dictatorship. The election had been stolen. What would I do if I really believed an election had been stolen to the degree they believed it had been? I don’t’ know, though I doubt I’d storm anything. I’d more likely just leave. But these people didn’t want to just leave. They considered themselves patriots. In their minds, they were saving their country, even as they literally attempted to destroy the building where its laws were written.
One woman was interviewed near the steps of the Capitol. She looked like a suburban mom, dressed in a nice coat and scarf decorated with piano keys. Perhaps you’ve seen the clip. She was very upset. She said she had just put one foot inside the Capitol when she was maced. She seemed confused about why she’d been maced. When the journalist asked her why she wanted to go in the building, she said–whined, really, “We’re storming the Capitol. It’s a revolution.”
It was as if she did not expect to meet with any resistance as she tried to overthrow a 250-year-old government. She’s easy to make fun of, and a lot of people have. But mocking her, and watching videos of MAGA marchers learning they’re on a No Fly list, and dreaming of the insurrectionists’ miserable incarceration does me no good. I just end up hating these people, that’s all. Nothing nobler, wiser, more useful than that. And when I hate someone, I just wish they’d disappear, for they have become the source of my unhappiness.
That is the great lie, greater still than the lie that the election was stolen, that the men and women who stormed the capitol believed. For some reason beyond Donald Trump, they became convinced that the people in that building were the reason they were unhappy. I would like to say I have never believed my only real problem is other people, but I cannot. In fact, these days it’s quite tempting to heap all my complaints about life onto the shoulders of the insurrectionists and their many enablers.
There’s a lot of talk right now about healing and about punishment. I’m all for the punishment. Choices and actions have consequences. But the healing is ultimately more important. When I’ve found myself in heated disagreement with someone, when I’ve edged up to hating them, the only way I know to heal that divide is to see myself in them.
I can’t turn another person into a monster, into something wholly different than myself, a creature incapable of love, driven inescapably by some inhuman desire. We create monsters for our movie villains and we kill them, celebrating as their evil dies with them. That’s a fantasy. In reality, there are no monsters. There are just people, some of whom believe monstrous lies and behave monstrously, but people just the same.
As I write this, I suspect it may be too early for some people to see themselves in the rioters. In fact, it may be too early for me. But that doesn’t change reality. Nothing changes reality. It waits for me to accept it, waits through all my dreams and nightmares, through all my arguments and judgment, waits for me to remember that all my power and peace lies within my own heart.
This post is republished on Medium.
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|Tyler Merbler from USA|