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January 7, 2021

An Assault on Democracy

Like many others around the world, we at Humanity United were horrified and angered by the violent and lawless attempt to disrupt our democratic processes at the U.S. Capitol yesterday. This attack on our country and our people was encouraged by the words and actions of the President of the United States and some Members of Congress, as well as the continued silence and inaction by other political leaders. Those who were directly and indirectly responsible for this attack must be held to account.

Last November, Americans chose new leadership for our country, a fact that was certified by every state in the union, and again late last night by Congress. While we have great hope for the incoming administration, led by President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, sadly the U.S. remains a deeply fractured and divided country. So much of our political discourse has devolved to a place where our diversity of experience and our differences of opinion are no longer celebrated or even respected. For too many of us, those with whom we disagree have become our enemy. This dynamic has been fueled by dangerous and irresponsible leadership, rhetoric, and actions for many years; it manifested in the election of Donald Trump four years ago, the embrace of authoritarianism by a major political party, and ultimately yesterday’s attack on our country.

For many years, the U.S. has considered itself an example to the world. We have celebrated our record of free and fair elections, the peaceful transition of power, rule of law, and our dedication to pluralism and upholding the voices of those with opposing points of view. These principles have been tested and strained recently in ways that we haven’t experienced in 150 years. In many ways, the United States of America has failed to live up to its ideals and values, as well as the principle of unity promised in its name. Yesterday’s attack, and the response to the attack, also laid bare the stark realities of racial injustice and white privilege, yet again. These are powerful forces in this country that continue to disenfranchise and dehumanize too many of our fellow citizens. This is our reality. We are far from the ideal of a “perfect union” enshrined in our constitution.

Still, despite the dangerous words and actions of some of our leaders, yesterday’s insurrection at the Capitol was put down, our national election was certified, the rule of law prevails, and on January 20th there will be a transition of power in this country. As citizens, we can recognize these milestones, but we cannot be complacent, and we should not take comfort that our institutions and democracy have prevailed this time. Rather, we must face the reality that we have a long way to go and much work to do.

Over the past 15 years, we have worked in places around the world to advance peace, freedom, and justice. We have learned a lot, and have seen first-hand the generational consequences of polarization, dehumanization, civil strife, and violent conflict. This is not a path that we can afford to take in this country. And while we at HU remain committed to our work around the world, we are also committed to the work it will take here at home. Enduring peace and freedom requires it.

In his first inaugural address in 1861, as the U.S. was on the verge of civil war, Abraham Lincoln famously spoke about the “the better angels of our nature.” In his speech, he appealed to his fellow citizens, “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.” Today, we are at a similar moment in our country’s history. We are sitting at a crossroads, faced with a choice that will impact our children and generations to come. This moment calls for all of us to come together to begin the work of healing and addressing the injustices that have plagued our country for too long. As we move towards reconciliation, we must also hold accountable those that have perpetrated injustices and crimes against our country, including those responsible for yesterday’s attack.

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