What power does

Let’s cut to the chase: Yesterday was horrifying. We are long past the time of mincing words. This blog is supposed to be about navigating adulthood, and unfortunately in the current era that means facing, processing, and responding to events that shouldn’t be occurring.

On the off chance you missed it, yesterday insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol building. All members of Congress had to be evacuated, and it delayed the Senate’s electoral college proceedings to confirm the presidential election results. A pipe bomb was found (and defused) at the RNC headquarters a few blocks away, and at least one other explosive was neutralized. At least four people died. The National Guard was called in. Want to know the last time the Capitol was successfully invaded and taken? The War of 1812.

The United States was founded upon — and clings to — democratic ideals, including and especially free and fair elections*. When a contingency of violent civilians invades the seat of federal power for the express purpose of overturning certified election results, it’s not a protest. It’s domestic terrorism.

To make matters worse, these attitudes and behaviors have been stoked, incited, and in some cases praised by the sitting president. This is entirely unconscionable and inexcusable. Enabling sedition cannot be tolerated. When law enforcement responds more forcefully to people marching in the streets to assert that Black lives matter than it does to insurrectionists trying to destabilize the federal government, there is no longer room for conversation about “bad apples.” These events are part and parcel a result of the central sin of the United States: the corrupting force of power, especially nationalism and white supremacy.

As someone who was in the first grade when 9/11 happened, I have never been more concerned about the sustainability of our democratic system than I was yesterday.

The difficult part of course, is that the average citizen has limited efficacy to enact change or protect the ideals we believe the country stands for. Here’s what you can do:

  • Vote. Because, as the past few months have shown, it really does matter. Local and smaller scale elections can be even more important than federal elections, and your vote goes event further.
  • Call your representative. Congresspeople and senators are, when it comes down to it, public servants. Hold them accountable for how they legislate and how they respond to critical events happening locally and nationally by calling (emails and letters can also work, but calls are much more effective).
  • Examine where your values do — and more importantly, don’t — line up with your behavior. Care about climate change? Purchase more sustainably. Care about disability services or veterans’ protections? Volunteer and organize. Care about racial justice? Do your research and elevate the learned voices in those communities.
  • Check your sources. Media literacy is more crucial than ever with the rampant misinformation spread across the internet — often by politicians and by people we know. Before you share something, look into whether it’s been verified by multiple sources, who is reporting it, and what biases might be driving the information. We owe good journalists a great deal, and have a responsibility to approach their reporting thoughtfully.
  • Don’t pretend like this is surprising. This pattern of events has played out under authoritarian leadership time and again across the globe. The more aware we are of history and of what goes on outside our borders, the better equipped we are to build a democracy that will not fall prey to the same mistakes again. Spend some time looking into the history of insurrection and protest in the U.S., and what drove the involved parties (happy to provide further reading on this if anyone wants).

I really wanted to write something positive for this week, but I guess in some ways this is. We may be living through a turning point, but it is one we can navigate together. If you’ve got thoughts to share or would like more info/sources, let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading.

* Note that this has historically not been the case in practice, hence the need for constitutional amendments, the Voting Rights Act, etc. Even today, many voters are disenfranchised by those in power who would rather suppress citizens’ constitutionally protected rights than risk losing power.

Photo is a stark black background because, while many stunning photos are available from yesterday’s events, a number are somewhat violent and graphic, and/or require permission to use. The links throughout this post offer a number of photos of the unrest.


Remembrance and responsibility

Today is the Fourth of July. Almost 250 years ago, what’s now my country declared its independence from the nation ruling over them. The holiday is often celebrated with barbecues and fireworks, and in my case watching Independence Day and Armageddon because it’s family tradition.

The United States has come a long way in almost 250 years. Countless men and women fought, and many died, to bring us to where we are today. When our founding documents were written, “We the people, by the people, for the people” didn’t include all people. I’m proud to say that we’ve recognized how many more are included in that ideal.

But I’ll be honest. We still have a long way to go. Please don’t get me wrong, I love my country. But refusing to acknowledge its faults isn’t love; it’s blind nationalism. There are still a lot of people who don’t get treated like equal citizens. There are those who demean and harm immigrants, when immigration and opportunity is what our country was built on. Far too many of us forget not just the legacy, but the lives of the nations that called this land home before we took it over, and those who still do. There are those who have fought for our freedoms and rights in the armed services, only to be pushed to the outskirts of society without proper thank or care.

We overpay executives and underpay teachers. We can be arrogant and selfish. We overbuy, under-give, and let the waste pile up. We forget the lessons of our elders and dismiss the young out of hand. We create problems and then act like it’s not our responsibility to help fix them. We ignore the hard truths in favor of sound bites and sensationalism. We are quick to idolize, and quick to tear down. We let our citizens and our fellow humans suffer, sometimes at our own hand. We excuse and enable abuses of power. We feed on anger and pointing fingers until we’ve slung so much mud we don’t recognize ourselves. We forget where we came from, and we forget our neighbor.

But we also have good. We band together when tragedy strikes. We speak out until change is realized. We dig our heels in when the work gets tough. We defend our ideals with every ounce of strength we have. We learn from the generations before us. We labor to give our children the life we wanted. We create, innovate, and explore out of wholehearted curiosity and opportunity. We speak dozens of languages, represent scores of cultures, and still remain individuals. We uphold free speech, free press, and democratic values. We value education and grit, not just pedigree. We root for the underdog. We are a country made of histories, a people made up of infinitely more peoples. We do not have one definition. And that’s what I’m proud of.

So happy Fourth of July to all 50 states, as well as all the U.S. citizens who inhabit Puerto Rico, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, plus U.S. nationals in American Samoa. This holiday, let’s honor our veterans, learn from our history, and care for our neighbor. That sounds a lot like freedom to me.

How do you celebrate Independence Day? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy Fourth!

P.S. If you’re looking for specific ways to help make a difference, you can: