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On Keeping A Republic

I had a different Wisdom Story written for today. It changed after the sad terrorist acts that unfolded in our Capital yesterday.

Democracy is fragile. We take it for granted. Our country is one of the longest standing democracies in history. Yet 244 years is a blip in time.

As the story was told and retold on the House floor during the Trump impeachment hearings, Benjamin Franklin was walking out of Independence Hall after the Constitutional Convention in 1787, when someone shouted out, “Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?” Franklin supposedly responded sardonically: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

What we saw yesterday is a direct threat to our republic. It is a direct affront to the idea that we elect our representatives. It is the dark brew concocted from a constant drumbeat of lies, disinformation, innuendo, conspiracy theories, power imbalances, economic inequity, systemic racism and many other isms and factors. It is fueled by the media, the mainstream internet and dark corners of the web. Not to mention a pandemic.

People look at each other as enemies, as the “other,” as less than.

What can we do? How can we communicate? How can we find common ground?

I am not sure and I am rattled.

Clearly, the dust has to settle first. There are American-grown terrorist groups who have been waiting for their chance to cause chaos. But the vast majority of people in this country have much in common - particularly when it comes to the basics for themselves and their families—food and shelter security, personal safety, a shot at a decent education, a shot at the pursuit of happiness.

I think it would be better for us now to remember how much we have in common and think of the little things each of us can do.

Don’t spread information that you haven’t vetted and don’t know is reliable.

Read about privilege and racist systems so you know the history and work to create more diverse and welcoming places and relationships.

Reach out to someone who may be living alone or has a small support system.

Donate to or participate in a charitable organization.

Don’t check out or give up on our political system—get involved to help make it work better for all citizens.

Find ways to communicate in a way that respects the right of each person to their own views (but not their own facts), even if it isn’t easy.

We still have the republic. It’s very far from perfect, but it can be made better.

At SWC I will do my best to create space for this work.

Let’s do this together.

With love and light,


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