Presidential incitement and the storming of our Capitol made for a shocking finale to a four-year nightmare. I worry that what happened Jan. 6 will come to live as a national out-of-body experience, an aberration, and be minimized and pushed out of sight.

When President-elect Biden tried to reassure us with, “This is not who we are,” I understood his intention, but at this very moment his comments fall short of being wholly honest. What happened at the Capitol is, partly, who we are. If we examine with unflinching candor the shining image of America’s status quo, it reveals chronic racial inequality as a fixture of the nation’s social fabric. Our history has privileged certain groups and disenfranchised others, plain and simple.

We don’t want to hear about that. We have hardened our hearts to our problematic origination story. Only when forced, do we acknowledge a legacy which is at odds with our buoyant image of ourselves.

Race is the central story of these United States. It is key to understanding why the Capitol insurrection actually happened. If we dig down to uncover the foundation of that story, we find race and racial animus undergird the entire structure. Our reluctance to give this our full and fervent attention is heartbreaking.

Phrases like “white supremacy” cause us to glaze over. We check out. Will trashing our Capitol likewise recede and become an artifact of history with no apparent bearing on our lives?

Is that how trauma works?


George Mason


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