Last week the world reacted in shocked amazement as an angry mob stormed in Washington and managed to enter and rampage in its hallowed halls. Some even emerged with ‘souvenirs’!
The first thing to note is that not every person who turned out to march that day intended such actions to take place, indeed many turned back to avoid being associated with the events that were unfolding in such a disturbing fashion before their very eyes.
The deadly assault on 6 January came as both the House and Senate were in session to certify Joe Biden’s victory in November’s presidential election.
Violence is not the answer. There needs to be a recognition and respect for the views on both political sides without claims of superiority.
Fear and Loathing
It seems that on the day of the attack the building which lawmakers call the People’s House was poorly defended. Ironically it has now been turned into a fortress, protected by thousands of National Guard troops, with metal detectors stationed outside the chamber doors. This may seem like bolting the stable door after the horse has escaped, but in view of the fears of further violence to come it is essential.
The FBI have warned of plans for new armed protests in Washington and all fifty state capitols.
In many states the atmosphere has been very tense. A guillotine was erected outside the state capitol in Arizona. A Democratic governor was burned in effigy in Oregon. There were cheers in Idaho as a crowd was told fellow citizens were “taking the capitol” and “taking down” the vice-president.
The US has no shortage of heavily armed extremists who have been openly calling for a new civil war. Members of the Boogaloo Bois – a nascent domestic terrorism group that has been linked to the murders of two law enforcement officers – have been described as having two wings, “one advocating the race war and one obsessed with societal breakdown and rebellion against the government”.
There are militia leaders such as Stewart Rhodes, the leader of an anti-government group, that recruits policy and military officers, who was photographed outside the Capitol during the recent riot.
Militia members, neo-Nazis, and other right-wing extremists have discussed multiple potential dates for armed protests in the coming days.
Not since Lincoln’s first inauguration in 1861 has an incoming American president taking office facing such a divided nation.
Loving Thy Neighbour
America is a vast country where diversity of opinion is inevitable. When people start to behave as if some of those voices do not have the right to be heard, then force becomes the only option. We, in Ireland, particularly know where that ends.
More than 3,500 people were killed in the conflict in Northern Ireland, of whom 52% were civilians, 32% were members of the British security forces and 11% were members of paramilitary groups. This does not take into account the people who were killed on the mainland of Britain. I will always remember the image of three-year-old Jonathon Ball who lost his young life in the Warrington bomb. He had been in the centre of town that day, with his babysitter, buying a card for his Mum for Mother’s Day. He is just one innocent victim of violence.
It was not until the guns were put down and the dialogue embraced by people on both sides that any advancement was made in a situation which many believed would never be resolved. The island of Ireland worked out a new way of incorporating the views and traditions of the other side.
America is now at such a point of crisis and we should not underestimate the magnitude of the task facing Joe Biden.
Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C., reminded believers that they are called to “acknowledge the human dignity of those with whom we disagree and seek to work with them to ensure the common good for all”.
For all who proclaim to be Christian, violence is never an option. Not only does it fly in the face of the words of Jesus who told us to treat our neighbour as we ourselves would wish to be treated, it also fundamentally negates the message of the resurrection, wherein Jesus overcame death and hatred and the men of violence who refused to listen to his message of peace.
Written By Marie – Therese Cryan