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The Fragility of Democracy

This post was written by ESTHER organizer Bill Van Lopik and ESTHER president Gary Crevier.

On Wednesday afternoon, 1/6/21, we watched with shock and sadness the unfolding events from our nation’s Capital, events that reflected the fragile nature of our democracy. We saw before us how unchecked lawlessness resulted in death and destruction. The members of ESTHER decry these events. While our elected officials were attempting to carry out the will of the people expressed in the Presidential election, they found themselves needing to flee and hide, fearing for their lives. They were afraid not only of the lawless mob banging on the doors outside of their chambers, but also of the noise within, the clamor of false claims that the votes cast in the election by the people were fraudulent.

Hours later, returning to work as the Capitol was being cleared, our representatives certified the results of the 2020 election. The coup was thwarted. American democracy prevailed in the face of perhaps its most serious threat since the Civil War.

In the aftermath, we are left with many questions, as well as a strengthened sense of the importance of ESTHER’s work.

Some of the questions have to do with “American exceptionalism”:

Why do we, the people of the United States, cling to the belief, despite so much evidence to the contrary, that that this kind of behavior “is not who we are”? On what reasonable basis can people hold together the words and deeds of Donald Trump, the democratic ideals of the United States of America, the name and example of Jesus and the flags of the Confederacy and Rambo as if these formed some kind of coherent and worthy ideology?

Other questions relate to the ongoing racial injustice in our nation:

Why did the rioters at the Capitol feel so emboldened? Was the privilege of their whiteness affirmed in the minimal law-enforcement presence, as compared to the overwhelming presence we saw at last summer’s Black Lives Matter marches and demonstrations? The white insurrectionists in the mob at the Capitol were allowed a measure of privilege (not being beaten) despite their efforts to overthrow the democratic form of governance that they supposedly espouse.

Finally, although we are appalled by what happened this past week, we are not surprised and we are not deterred. The events of January 6, 2021, remind us of the very reasons why we are in this work, and they urgently call us to continue it. Our country is rife with injustices, particularly as they relate to attitudes and policies against incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people, immigrants, the poor, Black, Indigenous and People of Color, gays, lesbians and queer and transgender people. Drawing from the values of our faith traditions – peace, justice, abundance, community, the intrinsic worth of every person – we resolve to redouble our efforts “ address systemic economic and societal injustices and to work for equitable communities that embrace diversity.”

Gary Crevier, President, ESTHER
Bill Van Lopik, Lead Organizer, ESTHER

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