The United States Capitol Police, charged with protecting members of Congress, has declared that “concerning statements and threats” have jumped from 3,939 in 2017 to 9,625 in 2021. Threats have gone beyond words to action, as in the recent horrific attack on Paul Pelosi, aimed at his wife, Nancy, speaker of the House of Representatives (third in line to be our President). Despicable speech against political rivals or people one disagrees with have risen since Donald Trump normalized crude, rude, racist, antisemitic, lying, and hateful language for his base and party, encouraging it throughout the U.S. His example makes some think: “If the U.S. President can speak this way, so can I! It’s my right to free speech!” Trump set the tone; too many cowardly followed. And continue to follow, once they realize attention, power, votes, and money come with accusing, flamboyant, dishonest words.
But it is not only politics where we see this happening. I suggest you muster up courage and read Meg Shutzer and Rachel Lauren Mueller’s NY Times article: Dying Inside: Chaos and Cruelty in Louisiana Juvenile Detention. No easy read but eye-opening, it reveals how despicable some Americans are and how those at the top in a position to improve situations are complicit in the on-going evil. How deplorable humanity can be! At just one center there were sixty-four teen suicides in 2019 and 2020, beatings, sexual assalt, rape, withholding of food, and lengthy isolation, as well as administrative misuse of funds. Read the article. Why do we not care about all our children and correct this?!
In Florida, a state that gives the death penalty for serious offenses, it was astounding to me that the perpetrator who shot dead 17 students and adults in Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018–the deadliest mass shooting to reach a jury trial in the U.S.–was merely given a life sentence without parole (which can be shortened), allowed to live out his life, though the 17–mostly children– he shot will not live theirs. If the death penalty is not used for a killer of innocent school children, then for what?–why have it? Why do we not care about our children?!
Though trauma for him and his family likely will long linger, Paul Pelosi will live, thankfully. The many children killed in Parkland, in Uvalde, and other mass shootings will not live, their parents enduring injustice and trauma without end. Why do we not care about murderous attacks on our children as much as a single attack on a politician?
Though it is crucial we stop it, the United States has a much bigger problem than political rhetoric. We have forgotten who we are and have become who we never thought we were. We are our own worst enemy. With malice for all that are not like us, we choose spiteful language which leads to tragedies like 1/6/22, blindly following the model set by former President Trump. The far better Presidential model to follow would be President Lincoln: “With malice toward none with charity for all with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan ~ to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations (Lincoln’s second inaugural address).
What are we doing to make a more just, loving, and honest nation? What are we doing to save our nation, its children and government officials? What are we doing to be the democratic Republic we claimed to be nearly 250 years ago? Was that a lie? Did our forefathers suspect we’d land in a sewer of vitriol where greed, lies, conspiracies, and the worst behavior dominates mankind, harms our children? I doubt it. They worked diligently to establish our unique government. Their hope can be ours if we let it. If we work at caring about everyone and for being our best selves. What are we individually doing–today, this minute–to stop evil habits and hatred? What are those who profess to be Christian doing to follow Christ, to love our neighbors, our children, and those with differing views? This is an open question that until it is answered leaves us lost.
Artwork: Eager Emma, approx. 15″ x 12″, pastel. Years ago when my daughter’s child was young, she expressed such jubilant joy which I tried to capture in a small pastel one winter’s day. If only every child–whether in the Ukraine or America or anywhere could be guaranteed the sanctity of hope for a full life.