American flag

This America is shocking, but not surprising. This America — where white Trump supporters can storm the Capitol almost unimpeded, forcing Congress into lockdown in an illegal attempt to erase an election they lost — is what we built, through action and inaction. Americans might say, “We’re better than this,” but we’re not. We should be, but we’ve done next to nothing to be better than this. We’ve stood by, nodding and winking at injustice and racism and white privilege, not for years but for centuries. We’ve allowed it to fester because — why? It would be unseemly to make a fuss? It isn’t really our business? It doesn’t really affect us? 

If your blood isn’t boiling, you’re the problem. If your blood is boiling and all you’re doing is tweeting about it, you’re the problem. We can’t heal what we don’t face. And we aren’t facing what America really is.

This — the ugly chaos we all watched today — this is America. Because saying, “Not all Americans! Not all white people!” is looking away. It’s letting the infection fester.

The attempted coup at the Capitol — invited and encouraged by a lame duck president and wannabe dictator (face the truth) — is a boil on the body of America. Today it ruptured. Today the pus spilled out and people said they were shocked — shocked! — that this could happen here. But the pain should have been felt, and fixed, long before this.

At the risk of belaboring a gross analogy, a boil must be lanced and treated with antibiotics. Otherwise the infection spreads throughout the body, and it can kill. You don’t ignore the boil. 

For too long we’ve ignored the infection. For too long we’re looked away. For too long we’ve pretended everyone lives in the same America, that our country isn’t built on and utterly reliant upon injustice.

“This is OUR America!” a white terrorist bellows as fellow rioters chase down a police officer inside the Capitol. “Our” America — built by Black people on land stolen from Native Americans, all for the benefit of white people.

Today’s violence is unprecedented, but it’s not an aberration. This is the America we built, exploding. These are the images we must force ourselves to stare at and say: Enough. As if “Enough” didn’t sail hundreds of years ago.

We have an opportunity to hold these vandals of democracy accountable. We have an obligation to hold ourselves accountable. We owe it to America — we owe it to the people from whom we stole it, on broken backs and broken lives and broken promises — to lance the boil, and to do the painful work of healing. 

Healing isn’t playing nice with people who want to steal elections and oppress minorities and uphold injustice and inequity. Healing is digging deep to the core of the problem, flushing out the rot and building a new America that is humane and just and fair to all Americans. Even if it hurts those of us who’ve been floating on the top too long. Especially if it hurts us. 

We didn’t earn this country. We earned the pain. It’s time to stop pretending.