The stubbornness of good: the lie of patriotism

Updated: Jan 7

Today is January 6, which in the Christian tradition is the day the three wise men arrived at the Capitol to prevent Jesus from being officially certified president. I may have mistakenly combined a few stories, but after a year, it's increasingly difficult to maintain any perspective on what actually happened on January 6, 2021.


I do know a few things—it wasn't three wise men, but a couple of thousand thugs and criminals pretending to be patriots and sporting their most fabulous Hallowe'en costumes.


And it wasn't Jesus, but it could have been since those engaged in sedition and treason have no use for one more guy preaching actual Christianity.

But it was January 6, the end of the twelve-day Christmas cycle, Little Christmas, the Epiphany, Three Kings' Day. You name it—there were plenty of good titles for January 6 before a band of armed, violent, and shameless delinquents added it to an infamous American nomenclature that includes December 7 and September 11.

So it has been a year, and as with most battles, the only people who have paid the price are the foot soldiers who did their leaders' bidding. The leaders have all skated. They've more than skated—they're working on their 2022 campaigns or parading undeterred through the same Capitol whose destruction they plotted. And one of them, the most cynical and amoral of the lot, is working assiduously (or as assiduously as a lazy load can work) to become president a second time—as if one embarrassing term was not enough.


And lest I be misunderstood—these foot soldiers are worthy of no one's sympathy. They were gullible, misinformed, and self-pitying, covering themselves in flags and naming themselves patriots, unaware that true patriots never place that designation on themselves. (Note to the 1/6/21 rioters: beating a woman with a flagpole may be a deal-breaker for that patriot thing-y.)


A year—and we lose track and perspective. The event becomes history, and the telling becomes the province of academics. But before that happens, please read this piece from the New York Times by Susan Dominus and Luke Broadwater, or listen to the podcast. It recounts the insurrection from the viewpoint of those trying to prevent it and trying not to die. Most of us have never confronted a mob or even an individual who views us as little more than insignificant collateral damage. The Times account of January 6, 2021, as lived and remembered by the men and women of the Capitol Police, will provide at least a hint of what it's like. It will disturb you and disgust you. PTSD will become more than just some initials. You'll realize, if you didn't already, what low regard these insurrectionists had for their fellow Americans.

Yesterday in New Hampshire, the father of seven-year-old Harmony Montgomery was arrested: the little girl had been missing for two years. It is, in itself, a horrible story, and the depravity involved may not have been fully exposed yet. I have little hope for her safety, but I do have some hope in the stubbornness of good, even after two years.


So it is with the January 6 investigation. I'm outraged that the perpetrators continue to roam scot-free, but as Harmony Montgomery's father learned yesterday, "scot-free" is frequently temporary. In 2022 the number of rioters arrested in the past year will double, and if the stubbornness of good holds, the leaders will suffer along with the credulous toadies who followed them.

If that doesn't happen—if on January 6, 2023, Donald Trump remains free to pursue the presidency, then we can stop comparing January 6 with other infamous dates. Remember, after September 11 and December 7, the country fought back. If we can't muster the courage to do so again, more brazen attacks will follow, and democracy will prove to have been a grand experiment, but one which ultimately failed.

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