Churches symbolize the beliefs of a faith community. They are sacred spaces.
The Capitol building is our national sacred space. It symbolizes our belief in democracy and union. When angry men and women, stirred to a frenzy by a five-year diet of lies and hatred, stormed our Capitol, they violated a sacred space. They are responsible for their violence, but so, too, are the men and women who crafted and perpetuated those lies and who identified fellow Americans as objects of that hate.
The physical desecration, cheered by our enemies abroad, was awful. So, too, are the falsehoods, scapegoating, tolerance of racism, threats and bullying, often in the name of a false patriotism, that preceded Jan. 6. They so battered the norms of our political institutions that millions of our citizens now believe, in spite of the absence of any credible evidence, that our November election was stolen.
These Americans believe the words of one deeply flawed man, rather than the words of thousands of men and women who reviewed the election data, repeatedly recounted challenged ballots, and swore in court that the results were what the results were. Those reviews were not the work of partisan hacks, but in many cases of elected Republican officials and Republican-appointed judges. Their rewards have been death threats.
Our local House Representative to the United States Congress is one of the people who bought those lies and then spread them. Like our now-former president, his minions and enablers must bear responsibility for the actions of their mob. They may not have thrown the flames, but they loaded the flamethrowers. There are sound reasons why incitement is a crime as much as the actions that follow incitement.
Before that fateful Wednesday, N.C. 11 Representative Madison Cawthorn told his twitter fans that “the future of this Republic hinges on the actions of a solitary few.” “It’s time to fight.” On his way to a rally on Jan. 6 to be one of the opening acts for the President’s rhetorical call to arms he tweeted “It’s on. Be there.” In that speech he claimed to see “courage” in the crowd; they had “the voice of lions.” “We should not,” our representative told them, “just sit idly by and sit on our hands.” And a few hours later his audience started down Pennsylvania Avenue to the seat of our government, populated, according to Mr. Cawthorn, by “cowards” with “no backbone.” There they did not sit idly by.
We hope that Mr. Cawthorn’s words are the result of his immaturity, of his lack of knowledge, and that he will grow from this experience.
We applaud his willingness to condemn the violence and call for an investigation after the fact, but it remains “after the fact.” The damage was done. People died. As a result there should be legal consequences as well as public condemnation, not simply for President Trump, but also for those people who stoked the anger, perpetuated the lies, and cheered the bullies. The honorable response would be to acknowledge his culpability and resign. It is more likely we will continue to get back-peddling and rationalizations; Mr. Cawthorn’s actions on and even before Jan. 6 were not honorable.
We write this not as Democrats, but as concerned Americans. We have lost our way as a country. We worry that our nation now so abounds with social media trolls and armed paramilitary organizations that our way to common ground will be difficult. We will only find it when we can sit and reason together, when facts once again are facts.
This commentary was signed by the Jackson County Democratic Party Officers Committee: Frank Burrell, Chair, as well as Lorna Barnett, Barbara Bell, Cynthia Burke, Bill Burke, Diane Jettinghoff, Jane Koenig, Drucilla Russell, Myrtle Schrader and Penny Smith.