My father used to air out his skeptical side by quipping, “Don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.”
I take it now to mean that people can say anything they want. Don’t believe that.
And sometimes they’ll show you who they really are. Believe that. Sometimes, though, they may be faking it. Don’t believe that either.
Then again, in an age of photoshop, digital manipulations, and “deep fake” tech, maybe half of what we see is still too much.
It’s hard to know what to believe.
And even when we are presented with cold, hard, indisputable, verifiable, peoplewere-there-to-actually-witness-it kind of data, we are still sometimes dumbfounded.
It’s not that we don’t believe it. We just don’t want to.
Wednesday, Jan. 6, has gone down in history as one of those days where it is hard to believe what we saw, but, in this case, we must. There is no digitally manipulating the storming of rioters against blue lives in Washington D.C.
There is no photoshopping an insurrection out of future textbooks. There is no deep faking public calls by a sitting President for his followers to march on the U.S. Capitol, promising he would be with them there.
We must believe what we saw, as horrifying and unAmerican as it was.
Perhaps there are those who say they can’t believe it.
Perhaps there are those who say they never saw that coming.
Then again, regardless of which side of the aisle your ballot may fall, facts are facts, and events such as what happened on the 6th were, in my opinion, signaled, predicted, and inevitable.
Truth-telling requires that we not sugar-coat the facts or defend those responsible.
Maturity demands that we ask, “How did we get to this point in our country?”
How did violent extremists — that cultish, formerly “fringe” group of zealots who encourage, condone, justify, or support violent acts for political, ideological, religious, social, or economic purposes, believing that patriotism means the destruction and death of those with whom they disagree — get escorted into the center of the heart of our democracy and of America’s attention?
And, as a white man, I must beg the obvious question: Has our country become too tolerant of the predictably unpredictable behavior of too many white men? Too tolerant of the whole “boys will be boys” excuse that routs off the rougher edges of this rebellion, in part, because America has always romanticized the fairy tale depicting the macho guy willing to shake his fist — and then swing it — at the man.
As the tragedy unfurled, those who had been called protesters were finally given the right name: Radicalized insurrectionists. Eventually, they stood down and were allowed to take their leave on their own power, some pumping fists, many promising they’d be back, with more firepower and a better plan, such that more than 15,000 National Guard troops are stationed in a perimeter around the Capitol in the days leading up to
You have heard it said, but it bears repeating: If that attempted coup had been carried out by a mob of gun-wielding Black rioters, they would never have been called protesters. They would first have been called thugs and savages, and then either inmates or fatalities.
There would have been no allowing such a mob to walk out of the Capitol on their own; any damage would have been harshly and immediately punished; and, there would be mass detention, quick trials, hundreds of incarcerations, and as many funerals.
We know this. We know that, after the shattered glass had been swept up and the flags had been lowered to half-staff, our country’s gaping political and racial divide is all that was left.
We are in trouble.
And I mean “we” — you and I.
It’s easy to blame a type of person — militia-minded, heavily-armed, angry, and emboldened by a leader.
But it’s not that simple.
They are retired military personnel, an Olympic athlete, an accountant, a minister, a physician, an attorney, a plumber, a carpenter, a firefighter, a local official, a state representative.
And it’s not just happening in Washington. It’s happening in Frankfort, too. Is Second Street in downtown Owensboro next?
And that is, in part, why this is so scary and so different and so slippery an issue to resolve.
But solve it, we must. The stakes are too high to believe this is someone else’s problem.
What is required, as always and yet as never before, are unity, understanding, listening, acceptance, dignity in difference, reliance on facts, a dialing down of unhelpful rhetoric, a dismantling of blind devotion to any single issue or party, and a restoration of a common vision.
We are not all elected officials.
We may believe we are powerless to do something.
But we are not. Because before the demagogues leave for their violent anti-American resistance, they will stop somewhere to eat, fill their tank, maybe even pray.
Perhaps you know who they are.
Perhaps you can offer a word that may get heard.
The least we can do is be kind, host constructive conversations, and denounce violence and hatred wherever it exists.
For, as Dr. King said it, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence ... the chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”
We can see it from here. It is not too late to turn this thing around.
We must rely on one another now.
Dr. Jonathan Eric Carroll, KLPC, NCPC, NCCE, is a state-licensed mental health professional, is an ACPE Psychotherapist, and is the Founder of The Clinic @ The Montgomery in downtown Owensboro. Dr. Carroll serves as the Grief Therapist for six funeral homes in the region. He also co-created and cohosts “You’ll Die Trying,” a podcast available everywhere. Visit www.themontgomeryclinic.com.