When Congress reconvened in the late hours of Wednesday evening, January 6th, following the cascade of violence that swept through the halls of the Capitol earlier in the day, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer recalled the words of our founder, former Congressman Dick Gephardt, to capture the severity and magnitude of the moment:
“Democracy is a substitute for war to resolve differences.”
We seek an America that rejects violence as the means of discourse and instead embraces the diversity of our voices to find common cause and understanding. The rhetoric and conspiracy that incited the violence at the Capitol and elsewhere this week did not come in isolation, and the rejection of this movement will require more resolve, engagement, and dedication than ever before at all levels of government and society.
This week brought other significant civic moments that call our attention. On Tuesday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, prosecutors decided not to file criminal charges against the police officer who shot and gravely wounded Jacob Blake. Also on Tuesday, voters in Georgia elected Reverend Raphael Warnock, who will become the state’s first Black senator, and 33-year old Jon Ossoff, who will become the youngest sitting U.S. Senator and the state’s first Jewish senator.
In a matter of two days, our nation experienced a range of major and contradictory civic moments. We are rightfully exhausted and anguished, and we are, hopefully, resolved to engage more deeply in preserving and strengthening the ideals of our democracy – an equitable, just, inclusive democracy.
In an essay published posthumously, Congressman and Civil Rights Leader John Lewis offered a final call to action that serves as a necessary guide to what we do now:
“Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we call the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.”
Let us act with resolve.
Peter G. Sortino Director